Show Review: Elbow at The Wiltern in Los Angeles, 7/22/09

by Gordon Elgart on July 24, 2009

Guy Garvey and the Mirrorball about which he may be singing.

Guy Garvey and the Mirrorball about which he may be singing.

Last night, I finally visited The Wiltern in Los Angeles to see my current favorite band, Elbow. [Editor’s note: expect lots of fanboy gushing.] They’re in the U.S. supporting Coldplay, and they added three headline dates. Since none of their shows–the support or headline ones–are coming up to the Bay Area, I decided that I would fly down for the show as well as take the opportunity to visit with some of my Southland friends and drop in on Disneyland, too. Travelling for a show automatically raises the stakes and makes it harder to live up to expectations. So how did this night go?

It started off with Jesca Hoop, a singer/songwriter I had seen previously open for The Polyphonic Spree. While I didn’t like her the first time I saw her, tonight she was great. She had a friend on stage harmonizing beautifully with her. If anyone caught her name, you can tell me. She was followed by Mellowdrone, a band who’s songs I had checked out in advance and didn’t like at all, but in person they sounded interesting enough to keep me from looking at my watch. That’s all a support band needs to do to get by my pass/fail curve, but I’m not going to seek them out in the future.

Elbow came on at 10:00, carrying trumpets. The first track off of The Seldom Seen Kid, their absolutely brilliant album, features trumpets that are probably not played by them on the album, but they play them live. It’s only a few notes, but it’s a really cool piece of stagecraft that starts the show off wonderfully. It helps that the song, “Starlings,” is drop dead gorgeous. Of course, that description pretty much describes the entire Elbow catalog.

Every once in a while, the game gets played where people put together their dream band. Pick a favorite vocalist, guitarist, bass player, etc. My vocalist is Guy Garvey, and you can get about 80% of the way to understanding that by listening to the albums, but seeing him live is an absolute joy. His lyrics and melodies have an immensely emotional quality to them, and it definitely gets passed on the audience. I can’t even count how many times I was choked up or had the chills. There are some absolutely perfect musical moments in an Elbow show. Here’s some:

  • The moment in “The Loneliness of aTower Crane Driver” when Guy sings “send up a prayer in my name” for the first time: chills.
  • When the entire band kicks in after the chorus of “Grounds For Divorce”: blood and fist pumping action.
  • When the crescendos of Newborn spiral into an epic cacophony of sound: happy dizziness.
  • When Guy Garvey sings the final chorus of “Switching Off”: choking back tears.

A lot of credit for the show needs to go to the audience at The Wiltern.  I was a little worried about being in an LA crowd for some unknown reason, but these fans were awesome.  They made “Grounds For Divorce” seem like a huge pop hit, and all the singalong moments had a remarkable participation ratio.  This is the biggest venue I’ve gotten to see Elbow at, and I’m glad that the energy level increased with the size of the audience.  It’s always great to be in a big room full of big fans of a band, so I’d like to thank everyone at The Wiltern for being so into it.

You can hear the enthusiasm for yourself, too, as Guy Garvey works with the crowd to get the best possible performance of their should-be hit song:

I’m really glad I made the trip, and will gladly travel again to see Elbow the next time they get within a few hundred miles of me.

Elbow setlist for The Wiltern on July 22, 2009

Bones of You
Leaders of the Free World
The Stops
Mexican Standoff
Grounds For Divorve
The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver
Switching Off
Weather to Fly (short acoustic version)
Weather to Fly (full length electric version)
One Day Like This
Some Riot
Station Approach
Scattered Black and Whites

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Marie Carney July 24, 2009 at 12:56 pm

I love the begining of the video! It’s like a choir practice.
Love it!
The song’s good too. I need to find that cd you gave me…


Ben July 24, 2009 at 12:59 pm

Too cool. Wish I had been there.


casey July 29, 2009 at 12:59 pm

wow, sounds like such an amazing show with a really great setlist! wish i could have gone!


Tim August 6, 2009 at 10:34 pm

Lovely to see the lads are doing the business on the other side of the pond. I honestly believe Elbow are the finest band the UK has produced since Pink Floyd and I feel they are destined to inherit that mantle internationally. I last saw Elbow at Wembley Arena in front of a 10,000 sell out crowd – Switching Off made me choke too. How I would have loved to see one of the concerts with the Halle Orchestra in Manchester though. But if anyone is interested, you can buy the CD and DVD of the entire The Seldom Seen Kid they performed with the BBC Concert Orchestra – it is magnificent.


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