Ever since I first saw and heard Elbow on an episode of Live from Abbey Road, I felt an immediate connection with the band. Not because we were from similar backgrounds or anything, because I recognized the beauty in what they were doing, and I’m pretty sure they recognized it too, although they were modest about it. They are a top ten band in the UK, filling stadiums and large halls, but tending to play small halls and large clubs in the U.S. Last week, I had the good fortune to see them first in a large club (The Observatory in Santa Ana) and then in a large hall (The Wiltern in Hollywood). Here’s a nice version of “The Bones of You” from their performance in Orange County Tuesday night.
And here’s a lovely version of “One Day Like This” from The Wiltern on Thursday:
Here’s the one Elbow slideshow I haven’t yet posted here, and its probably the least interesting in that it doesn’t really evolve or develop as much as it needs to. Still it’s a lovely song from the band, taken from a sensitive performance of it in 2015 on YouTube. I don’t think it’s terrible, but coming after “Scattered Black and Whites,” which I really think of as my best slideshow to date, it was a bit of a let down.
As you might have guessed, I’m a big fan of this band, although they aren’t especially well known in the U.S. I believe I first became aware of them when they appeared on an episode of Live from Abbey Road. I was impressed enough to buy their new album at the time, The Seldom Seen Kid, and was even more impressed by their i-tusnes concert. After Build a Rocket Boys, I was a fan, and after seeing them in oncert at The Wiltern on The Takeoff and Landing of Everything tour, I became a devoted follower of this Manchester band. Guy Garvey’s voice–rather like Rufus Wainwright’s although their voices aren’t that similar–just connects with me on some deep level. Their arrangements are intriguing, varied, and not really like anbody else, while their lyrics are deeply evocative of memories and emotions I had thought were private. I’ll be seeing them twice this week–once tonight in Santa Ana at The Observatory, and then on Thursday at The Wiltern. Their fans seem like genuinely nice and friendly people, an attitude the band seems to consciously foster by, for example, encouraging fans to post band-related material to their Facebook group.. This slideshow consciously recalls some of my other Elbow slideshows, including “Lost Worker Bee,” “Kindling (Fickle Flame),” “Scattered Black and Whites” (which frankly I consider my best slideshow to date), and “The Night Will Always Win.” The audio for Newborn is an extended version of the song from a Kendall Calling performance in 2015 (the song originally appeared on Asleep in the Back ).
I always loved the piano on Elbow’s “Scattered Black and Whites.” As Guy Garvey says somewhere (I think it is in the i-tunes interview), the song has a fairly simple melody and a rather monotonic vocal line that the keyboards sort of dip and weave around to remarkable effect. I had originally conceived of this slideshow as being almost entirely about abstract art, but as I listened to and looked up the lyrics, I realized that it was basically a memory song, with the speaker going into a reverie caused by smelling his sister’s perfume. The “scattered black and whites” are actually old photographs, and the song is to some extent about the claims the past (as embodied in old photographs, but also childhood memories) makes on us, calling out to us that they once existed, and that we need to visit and revisit them once in awhile. It’s like a seven minute version of Proust, and kind of breathtaking in how successful it is. I chose this version from Manchester Cathedral simply because the song seems rooted in Manchester, where several of the band members grew up. It was a really interesting exercise for me (kind of like Kathleen), in that I tried to keep to a very limited palette, except for the modern performance pictures of the band. I’m actually quite proud of it, possibly even more than for “Kindling (Fickle Flame).”. Hope you like it.
Here are the lyrics, by the way, which aren’t always that easy to make out:
Been climbing trees, I’ve skinned my knees
My hands are black, the sun is going down
She scruffs my hair in the kitchen steam
She’s listening to the dream I weaved today
Crosswords through the bathroom door
While someone sings the theme-tune to the news
And my sister buzzes through the room leaving perfume in the air
And that’s what triggered this
I come back here from time to time
I shelter here some days
A high-back chair, he sits and stares
A thousand yards and whistles
Kneeling by and speaking up
He reaches out and I take a
That flit between short trousers
And a full dress uniform
And he talks of people ten years gone
like I’ve known them all my life
Like scattered black ‘n’ whites. (Elbow)
Only the first of these is my slideshow, but I thought I would include the second as another wonderful example of a rather simple, low-cost but remarkably effective video, the kind this Manchester band often produces. (Cross posted at the Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour and Elbow FB group). Since this version of “Kindling” first appeared in my Facebook feed a couple of months ago (it originally appeared, without John Grant’s vocals) on their Little Fictions album last Spring), I’ve been entranced with it. The way it folds together memory, strong emotion, and its sudden, stunning rebirth are very affecting, while the restrained melody complements the way John and Guy’s voice interweave to absolutely stunning effect. Anyway, this is my fourth Elbow slideshow, my way of preparing myself for their shows next month at The Observatory and The Wiltern. The video clips are from Shutterstock, and–yes–I paid for them. Hope you like it.
The second is the band’s offical video for “My Sad Captains,” from their Take Off and Landing of Everything album. It’s a lovely, poignant song, and the video really manages to encompass the song’s beautiful innocence, sadness, and acceptance, all in about four minutes. Other than the multiple cameras, it almost looks like a home movie, which actually contributes to its success, I think.
Here’s a slideshow I just did to “Lost Worker Bee.” I quite like the official video, which this in no way replaces, but I like how it turned out. It’s a bit more Elbow-focused, as well as a bit more bee-focused than the video, although I think it does a good job of suggesting the yearning and possible fulfillment that is at the song’s heart. While this could be seen as a followup to my “Build a Rocket Boys” and “Open Arms” slideshows of last summer. This is actually my way of my beginning to get ready for the band’s North American tour (I’ll see them twice next month!).
I thought I would post this, simply because it is a wonderful example of how you can do a lot with a little in a music video. It isn’t my video, but has gotten over five-and-a-half million views on YouTube. It helps to have a terrific song, of course, one that does a remarkable job of capturing that evanescent feeling of everything just falling into place.