Elbow, Nottingham Motorpoint Arena review: 'Anthem jockeys raised the roof'

A publicity shot of the band Elbow
A publicity shot of the band Elbow -Credit:Heritage Live

Languorous anthem jockeys Elbow ended their UK tour with an exultant Nottingham gig.

It had been a trying week. The night before they rolled up at the Motorpoint Arena, they were the first band to play a proper gig at Manchester’s new Co-op Live Arena – a venue whose farcical launch has already made it an international laughing stock.

Elbow were originally the 15th gig on the list but, as all the earlier ones were called off due to the building not being ready, they ended up first. To make matters worse, Manchester is a hometown gig for a band from Bury.

Frontman Guy Garvey was blunt. The previous night had been “pretty nerve-wracking” whereas the Nottingham show was “lovely”.

He’s got a lot to be happy about. The band’s new album Audio Vertigo – their tenth – is one of their best, combining adventurous versatility and imagination with the usual melancholic melodies and lyricism. With its muscular grooves and alternating darkness and light, it’s a world away from its beautiful predecessor, 2021’s Flying Dream 1 (from which, disappointingly, nothing was played).

The new album provided the first two songs. They strode on in blinding white light to blast out the dramatic Things I’ve Been Telling Myself For Years before Lovers’ Leap – a spectacular, polyrhythmic mash-up of dancing brass and thumping beats with a gorgeous, surprisingly fragile, middle eight – sealed the deal.

From then on, new numbers were dotted among a parade of old favourites. A spectacular Mirrorball was brilliantly illuminated by a series of, yes, mirrorballs (!) including a giant one suspended from the ceiling. The thrilling Charge was lethally dispatched. Flying Boy Blue/Lunette took the breath away and, for the dynamic Dexter & Sinister, the group was joined by American singer Jesca Hoop, a protege of Tom Waits, whose soaring, semi-operatic voice added a biting edge to a magnificent coda.

An all-female team of string and brass players provided striking punctuation to the foundations laid down by Garvey, brothers Craig (keyboards, backing vocals, percussion) and Mark (guitar, backing vocals) Potter, Pete Turner (bass, keyboards, backing vocals) and Alex Reeves (drums).

The Picture – a tale of digital treachery performed in a web of laser-like beams of light – took us back to the new album, which also supplied the exuberant Balu and the blockbusting Good Blood Mexico City.

Elsewhere, the delicate Puncture Repair lasted less than two minutes but made every second count and Kindling and The Birds had the crowd roaring along.

The closing stretch was a victory lap. Station Approach inspired a deafening singalong, My Sad Captains brought tears to eyes, Magnificent (She Says) – which Garvey said was “Paul McCartney’s favourite song – of ours....” – swelled the heart and, for a band which usually sticks in mid-tempo middle gear – Grounds For Divorce slammed down the throttle and raised the roof.

The encores – a charming Lippy Kids and the inevitable, soaring One Day Like This – sang the crowd hoarse. But it was just the icing on a cake which had already gone down a treat.