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Review and photos by Andy ArgyrakisThere are several parallels between Elbow and Coldplay, the band its currently supporting on a massive summer tour of outdoor amphitheatres. For starters, both acts were the subject of unparalleled UK buzz at the tip of the 2000s, followed by the fact that each recently released its fourth studio CD. Obviously Coldplay has cracked the mainstream stratosphere and Elbow remains privy to underground tastemakers, but for the first time in America on a major scale thus far, the latter act is piquing some interest from the masses.
While a forty-five minute long opening set lacked the bells and whistles of the headliners, Elbow's musical musings were arguably more innovative than its on stage predecessors, falling somewhere between early 1970s art rock and a contemporary Brit-rock approach wrapped around ethereal atmospherics. Though a bit too cerebral for those exclusively inclined towards modern rock radio, the set of surging dynamics and sweeping soundscapes was nothing short of sublime.
Much of the program gravitated towards the group's current collection The Seldom Seen Kid (Fiction/Polydor/Geffen), a grand artistic affair steeped in lush arrangements and ambitious self-production. On stage, songs like "The Bones of You" and the string-enhanced "Mirrorball" were just as commanding as they were charming, striking a delicate balance between being able to fill the massive confines with a wall of sound, but possessing a tender undercurrent of emotion.
In listening to front man Guy Garvey, it was impossible to not notice shades of early Genesis when Peter Gabriel was the front man. And while that British rock luminary is said to be a long time fan, Elbow returned the favor of homage paying throughout a riveting, seven-minute rendition of "On a Day Like Today." Additional hints of that inspiration came during the dreamy "Station Approach" (off 2005's Leaders of the Free World), effectively touching on all the essential aspects of the group's eight year career.
Of course, with a limited time frame and an audience amped to see Coldplay, not many deep cuts or jam sessions were addressed, which had this been a solo club show, would've extended well beyond the cherry-picked obligatory material. But no matter what tunes Elbow presented, it's safe to say previously unfamiliar listeners were converted to fans, and if Chris Martin and the boys were listening backstage, hopefully they were taking notes to kick up the creativity beyond merely appeasing radio programmers.
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