Elbow rock at Live at the Marquee in big Cork show

Elbow may not be at the top of anyone’s list of favourite body parts, but you can see why this band is the number one act on so many iPod playlists.

It’s probably because their delivery seems so personal, deeply intimate. It’s all so effortless.

“Hands,” says vocalist Guy Garvey. A sea of hands are raised. But this is not master and servant control.

“Don’t panic if you’re overheating here at the front, people will be passing around water... Oh here they are right on cue.” Just like the crowd clapping on command, or rather on request.

Is it just because they are so chilled that we are putty in the sweaty hands of Elbow? Either way, they own this audience. The lower their efforts, the higher our fidelity.

That’s definitely true of the lyrics. Even live, songs like ‘The Bones of You’, ‘Kindling, Little Fictions’ and ‘New York Morning’ feel more like someone reading an intimate poem than a rock ogre slaying the hordes. The climax is One Day Like This, but it’s just one link in a magical daisy chain.

The lyrics are just one reason why Guy Garvey attracts most of the attention; there’s also his perfect baritone, then his anti-pop frame and matching anti-pop frame of mind. He also has a charm that would melt a polar ice cap. But he’s not alone in setting the tone.

Musically, there’s great assured mellow depth to everything this band does. There’s no screaming for attention, rather a shared confidence from the chilled kick drum, all the way through to the intuitive crowd control.

Garvey introduces the band early doors. He asks the crowd to welcome new drummer Alex Reeves like we’re meeting an old friend.

Clockwise from top left: Maurice Meaney, Sean Birney and Jack Kennedy from Waterford, Siobhán Tobin and Eamonn Morrissey from Kilkenny and Jennifer and Barbara Doran from Waterford.
Clockwise from top left: Maurice Meaney, Sean Birney and Jack Kennedy from Waterford, Siobhán Tobin and Eamonn Morrissey from Kilkenny and Jennifer and Barbara Doran from Waterford.

“Reevesy,” we chant. Then we do the same for Cork-born backing singer Oonagh.

The power of this band lies in the trance chords of Craig Potter’s keys, punctuated by Mark Potter’s guitar shapes, all underpinned by Pete Turner’s melodic bass. And who could forget Reevesy?

The sum of their parts? For me, they’re this generation’s Pink Floyd, but with the vibe of an edgy family gathering for Christmas dinner.

“My sister married a man from Cork,” says Guy. “They moved to Waterford. I’m going to make his life a bit harder ... So this next song is for my sister and her darling Waterford man.”

Mellow mood all night long. A big show, but no theatre. A truly unique band, almost defying description. How good would that Christmas dinner be? Elbows on or off the table?

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