There are so many aspects of this particular performance of Elbow’s triumphant anthem of 2009 that for me depict an intriguing insight into being from and/or being creative in the North of England now. I feel the track is essentially about cherishing those bright sunny days in a climate whose sky is rather often grey. And so there is a strong reference to a particular place. Yet the metaphor of the “throw those curtains wide, one day like this a year will see me right” touched a more universal audience. The most recognisable musical phrase became the voice of British Gas. There is a regional pride but they still feel and remain inclusive.
These contradictions and many others in this example appeal to me as I feel it is hard to define a “Northern Spirit” in contemporary culture while also avoiding the contrived. It seems to me that Elbow are grounded in their local ‘roots’ and home while also outward looking and able to communicate, as this album firmly placed them as a mainstream headlining international band. Upon discussion in Newcastle I learned how the band’s singer Guy Garvey was brought up to feel the civic buildings such as Bridgewater Hall were also for him too. Nice touch then that working for Tube sound company, I recorded the bells of the Manchester Town Hall playing the main theme that was then replayed back to the audience at the show.
I like how for this performance the quite expensive and perhaps even exclusive venue of Bridgewater Hall was used as the show but it was also streamed live for free on a big screen outdoors at Castlefield Arena. I was there for that and it was a sunny summer evening and a lovely atmosphere. Guy Garvey facilitated communication between the venues using the big screens that connected the two audiences. It was a well executed collective experience and I for one did not feel I was missing out by not having purchased a ticket for the Bridgewater Hall show. In fact I felt I preferred it thanks to the lovely weather and for magic moments like when a train driver stopped for a moment on the bridge passing by the arena, beeped and waved and everyone cheered to and for him.
Here Guy Garvey talks to Stuart Maconie about a Northern sensibility in his lyrics and Elbow’s interest in finding the extraordinary in the ordinary: