Elbow – The Powerstation March 28, 2012

It was a long time coming, but New Zealand fans of Manchester’s Elbow finally got what they’d been waiting for, a concert here in Aotearoa. Wednesday’s sold out show at The Powerstation was the first of two concerts at the venue for the band. Given that Elbow had recently graduated to the stadium circuit in the U.K., anticipation was running high to see them in such an intimate venue.

At 9:45 two female violin players took their seat on the stage, followed by the five members of Elbow. Lead singer Guy Garvey realized the significance of the moment and saluted the audience with his glass of beer.

“Finally, New Zealand!”

It was clear from the outset that Garvey would be our master of ceremonies for the evening. After the opening song, The Birds, Garvey polled the crowd, looking for Brits, then Mancunians. There were plenty and they were vocal.

After The Bones Of You, Garvey engaged with the crowd again, asking for a show of hands of anyone who recently fell in love. This served as an intro for Mirror Ball. Garvey cued the audience to wave their fingers to mimic the mirror ball dangling from the stage.

But it seemed that Garvey’s interaction with the audience began to back-fire. Certain sections of the crowd were becoming quite vocal both between songs and during them. Garvey’s mistake was to try and decipher the calls from the audience, which just resulted in confusion and frustration. He asked a group up front to “take it down a couple of notches”. A plea for requests led to a call for a Haka, then Weather With You…Elbow attempted neither.

After a delicate version of The Night Will Always Win, the band departed leaving Garvey and keyboard player Craig Potter alone on stage. They waited for the crowd to calm down but finally had to ask people to stop talking before singing The River.

The band returned after Puncture Repair. Someone called Garvey a “sexy bear”…granted he does look rather bear-like…and he went on about being a gay icon. The string section then made their presence known during Dear Friends.

Finally, with the performance of Lippy Kids, the band seemed to be in control of things. The mood changed for the better…not that it was horrible, just somewhat uneasy. Lippy Kids was a highlight. The band then gathered around the keyboard for Weather To Fly. There was much handclapping, much singing along. All was well. The 90-minute set ended with a stirring version of Open Arms.

For the encore a snare drum was moved out front. When the quintet re-took the stage all but the drummer were brandishing trumpets draped with New Zealand flags. After a brief fanfare they played Starlings.

Guy Garvey then urged the crowd to wave their hands like “grass in a summer breeze” during Station Approach. The show ended with a final sing-along to One Day Like This.

Sure there were a few negative aspects…the crowd was a distraction early on, the sound was a bit muddy and I think it would have been better at a seated venue such as the Civic. But in the end, Elbow triumphed and the long-suffering fans were rewarded for their patience.

Marty Duda

Click here to listen to Elbow perform Lippy Kids at The Powerstation: 

Click here to view a photo gallery of Elbow performing at The Powerstation, taken by 13th Floor photographer Michael Flynn:

Elbow set list:

  1. The Birds
  2. The Bones Of You
  3. Mirror Ball
  4. Neat Little Rows
  5. Grounds For Divorce
  6. The Loneliness Of A Tower Crane Driver
  7. The Night Will Always Win
  8. The River
  9. Puncture Repair
  10. Dear Friends
  11. Lippy Kids
  12. Weather To Fly
  13. Open Arms
  14. Starlings
  15. Station Approach
  16. One Day Like This