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Review: Elbow at Castlefield Bowl

Elbow Guy Garvey Castlefield

“Good evening you beautiful city”, boomed Guy Garvey as he strode onto the stage at Castlefield Bowl to a rapturous reception from his home crowd.

So started the serious Manc love-in that is an Elbow concert on home turf. Few bands are quite as intricately woven into the very fabric of Manchester as a music city than the Bury-formed troubadours.

They spent a decade gigging around the city’s alternative music venues before breaking into the big time with their seminal, Mercury Music Prize-winning album The Seldom Seen Kid in 2008 and sky rocketed into the music megastar league. But there’s always that feeling that Manchester loved them first, and of course the most fondly.

It is reflected in Guy’s adoring references to Manchester throughout this warm, snuggly blanket of a show – he heralds the fact the band are performing in “the oldest part of the city” in Castlefield, before amusing the crowds with the origins of the name Manchester as a “breast-shaped hill”.

And when he introduces Magnificent by saying: “This song is about the big stuff you know?” some wag in the crowd chips in “The Arndale?”.  “Yeah the Arndale,” Guy deadpans back.

Guy Garvey elbow Castlefield
credit: Adam Pester

Performing here as part of the ongoing Sounds of the City series at Castlefield Bowl on Tuesday night, fans are treated to an eclectic selection from their back catalogue, as well as a tantalising big reveal of what’s to come.

For Guy informs the crowd that they have: “finished an album today” before giving a sneak preview with the melancholic strains of newie Empires.

And the now customary wave-along to every train that trundles over the Castlefield viaduct is even turned into a song at one point by Garvey, who leads us merrily into singing: “I love a train, standing on a bridge”.

Click or swipe below for a full gallery of images from Elbow’s concert:-

Guy is in rich and powerful voice, with the band’s Craig Potter, Mark Potter, Peter Turner and Alex Reeves bringing the wall of sound to Elbow’s soaring ballads, and they are joined for this show by sisters Rosie and Gita Langley on strings.

There was also an emotional tribute from the band to two hugely influential figures in their lives who passed away in the past year – Night and Day founder Jan Oldenburg and Scott Power of Big Hands and The Temple.

Guy praised their huge contribution to Manchester’s cultural scene, saying: “They made it a place where you could gestate your dreams. They were both very dear friends of ours and we loved them very much.”

It rather fittingly leads into an impassioned My Sad Captains which recalls a night spent in Big Hands.

Guy merrily conducts his Manc chorus throughout this show – with pretty much every word of every song lustily returned back to him from the crowds with the blissful brogue of northern vowels filling the night air.

Guy Garvey Elbow Castlefield
credit: Adam Pester

Naturally, that reaches a powerful crescendo on the band’s biggest anthem, One Day Like This, leading into the night’s finale of Grounds For Divorce. He started by leading us all a cappella in one giant hum-along.

“Are you still in key?” he laughed, before establishing that yes, against the odds, we really were.

“That’s my city,” he beamed with pride. 

Elbow Castlefield Bowl
credit: Adam Pester


Fly Boy Blue/Lunette

The Bones of You

Magnificent (She says)



Little Fictions


The Birds

My Sad Captains

Station Approach

Lippy Kids

One Day Like This

Grounds for Divorce

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