A production four years in the making, Elbow strode last Wednesday onto the Bridgewater Hall stage as bedraggled, nervous Bury blokes, but left all-conquering kings of Manchester International Festival.
Aided by the Halle Orchestra (another Manchester-born institution) and Salford-bred conductor Joe Duddell, main man Guy Garvey was on miraculous form, delivering a note-perfect performance confirming him as one of the most gifted vocalists this country possesses.
‘Station Approach’ opens, a Manc-anthem about returning home to your mum, followed by ‘Mirrorball’, a sumptuous ballad propelled by Halle’s youth choir and greeted by showers of affection by an astonished hall.
Highlights come thick and fast: ‘Grounds for Divorce’ is fired with Bad Seeds-esque rock gristle, ‘Some Riot’ is a touching, teary-eyed tribute to late muse Bryan Glancy, and ‘Weather To Fly’ asks: “Are we having the time of our lives?/Are we coming across fine?” The Bridgewater’s fervent end of set reaction said it all.
Elbow’s second half didn’t disappoint. The choir-augmented ‘Grace Under Pressure’ segued into the string-laden ‘Starlings’, while ‘Scattered Black and Whites’ and ‘Newborn’ nod to their early genius.
As scripted, ‘One Day Like This’ brought the house down, Garvey leading a sea of joyous, waving arms, resulting in a 10 minute standing ovation. Well deserved, too. This was a magical, moving performance.
Elbow's setlist. Pic: Olivia Schaff
On Thursday evening (July 9), as Elbow limbered up for another sell out Bridgewater Hall gig, Hacienda DJ and ex-NME man Dave Haslam opened his True Faith showcase: giving new city talent a welcome leg up.
In a corking first show, local foursome Airship performed a confident 20 minutes of rattling indie-rock: boasting the fuzz-pedal power of touring buddies Nine Black Alps allied with the massive pop-gaze of Scandinavians Mew.
Airship. Pic: Duncan Elliott
They skillfully navigate Beck via The Korgis with a stark take on ‘Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometimes’, while ballsy closer ‘Algebra’ hints at potentially stadium shaped stardom.
Meanwhile, down the road in Castlefield, 5000 Mancunians got pissed by the canal to watch the Elbow gig on a big screen. Sore heads were the order of Friday morning…
Pic: Joel Goodman
Run Toto Run are dividing opinion in Manc-land with their nymphy electronic-folk-pop, and despite bringing along a string section, they’re a little flat tonight.
Run Toto Run. Pic: Duncan Elliott
Still learning the live ropes, the new-age, boy-girl-girl-boy quartet boast a striking look and in ‘Plastic Gold’ and ‘Catch My Breath’ a couple of sickly-sweet gems. Their Hype Machine-topping version of Passion Pit's 'Sleepyhead' points to sound musical brains: RTR’s big break may not be far off.
Ironically, headliners Everything Everythingweren’t born in these parts, but formed around Salford Uni: representing a student force the area’s music scene call their own. EE possess the odd-ball weirdness that Wild Beasts call normal, and in singles ‘Photoshop Handsome’ and ‘Suffragette Suffragette’ two manically addictive alt.weirdo.rockouts.
Their real power appears in their slow burners, with closing effort ‘Weights’ a glorious, morbid triumph. Bring on that album.
Everything Everything. Pic: Duncan Elliott
Manchester International Festival – Kratfwerk, Steve Reich, 'It Felt Like A Kiss'
Manchester International Festival – Rufus Wainwright, 'Prima Donna'