Live Review: Elbow with Glasser at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 22nd September 2011

By on Monday, 26th September 2011 at 2:00 pm

Two years is far too long to go without seeing Elbow live. But when you live in America, the land of frustrating commercial radio strangled by major record labels, you make do with what you can. And I’m very pleased that for a second time in 2 years, DC music fans sold out yet another Elbow show at the 9:30, so if American record execs aren’t paying attention, they should. The Manchester band made playing to a crowd and making every single person in the club feel loved. I could go on and on about this gig but I’ll try to break down the highlights…

…after I introduce the opening act, Glasser. I knew nothing about Cameron Mesirow and what she does, so I will defer to Paul Lester and his New Band of the Day segment on the Guardian last year for the following description: ‘This synth siren sounds like a weirder and more credible version of Enya, all ethereal vocals and meandering melodies’. For all the rubbish Enya gets for being soft, I think this is a diss on Enya. (At least I fine something palatable in Enya’s songs.) If you like women who yelp, squeal and moan to an electronic backdrop, Glasser’s for you. I didn’t think Enya: I thought Bjork. Her outfit – green and black striped trousers under a dress that looked like a sack, with white and blue stripes on top and white and red stripes on the bottom – was completely unflattering, with an unsightly bulge in the front as if she were pregnant. She didn’t ‘look’ truly pregnant, so seeing this woman doing interpretative dancing / arm movements while singing was strange. Sorry, that’s just not my thing. Not getting it at all. It’s as far away musically from Elbow as you can get. The best part? The backbeats provided by her bandmate onstage, working furiously over a synth and drums. This opening for a review sounds a lot like the Friendly Fires one in May…

So Elbow. They’ve had a stellar year so far and I thought it might be a downer for them to come over to the States and play clubs when they have no trouble selling out the MEN Arena at home. Not so, says guitarist Mark Potter, he thinks it’s fresh every time they come back here, because they have win people over. Interesting – and in my opinion, a great – way to look at it. As should be expected, the majority of the songs they played were from ‘build a rocket, boys!’ (John’s review here) and from the 2008 Mercury Prize-winning ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’. What could not be predicted was how Guy Garvey got the audience involved every step of the way. ‘Grounds for Divorce’ was preceded by him picking out a girl in the crowd, asking her what her name was (Diana, it was) and leading the entire crowd to sing a capella to her in the song’s melody and say how great she was. If it’d been me, I would have fainted dead away. (The parting shot of this evening for me will always be seeing this girl Diana hugging Guy outside the club. Him picking her out of the crowd no doubt made her year.)

It was a rowdy crowd and there were many shouts, demanding songs and wanting their birthday / wedding / etc. etc. etc. to be acknowledged. I was getting a little sick of this because it broke up the continuity of the show, but Guy took it in stride, trying to play up to each one of these requests the best he could. But then he took the opportunity to single out songs that had particular meaning to him: ‘Newborn’ was written when, with a broken heart, he’d gone over to drummer Richard Jupp’s house and played with his infant son; he took advantage of one bloke’s demand for birthday wishes by introducing ‘The Night Will Always Win’ as a way to celebrate the man’s birthday with a song about someone loved who had died (everyone laughed); ‘Great Expectations’ was prefaced by Guy’s explanation that he wrote this song when he was much younger and had gotten married, but the woman still had no idea.

‘Starlings’, the opening song from their last show here in 2009, was moved to the start of the encore, and it shone with its multi-trumpeted glory. Perfect placement. But there was no question what would be the last song of the night. ‘One Day Like This’, showing how adorably awkward love can make a person, shone like a beacon in the night. It’s times like these that make me think American radio is criminal. But when I think about it again, really, it’s everyone else’s loss. Everyone at the 9:30 Club Thursday night got to enjoy their little secret.

After the cut: set list and more photos.

Glasser Photo:

Elbow Set List:

The Birds
The Bones of You
Neat Little Rows
Grounds for Divorce
The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver
Great Expectations
The Night Will Always Win
Puncture Repair
The River
Lippy Kids
Weather to Fly
Open Arms
Station Approach
One Day Like This

Elbow Photos:

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One Response

7:41 pm
1st October 2011

This show was so amazing. We drove from Ohio to see it, and we left breathless. Thanks for the review!

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