Guy Garvey just has this way of making you feel comfortable. Sauntering onto the Forest Live stage at Bedgebury Pinetum like a Dad at a school football match. Garvey instantly catches the attention of every Kentish picnic-goer in the crowd. Before a note is even played, it already feels like I'm sitting in a leather armchair next to a crackling fire, book in hand, ready to dive into Elbow's world.
The set starts with 'Any Day Now' from their 2001 album 'Asleep in the Back.' What's got into me?/Can't believe myself/Must be someone else," Garvey asks as bassist Pete Turner sways gently with his eyes closed. The set timing is immaculate. Most people will be familiar with elbow's fourth release 'The Seldom Seen Kid,' the album which arguably propelled them into the mainstream, but you've got to listen around to truly appreciate the genius of their work. They played songs from early albums and less popular tunes from 2017's 'Little Fictions' but just as the sun sets, they release 'Mirrorball,' one of my favourite tracks, a beautiful blend of rolling piano and playful violin. Dotted purple lighting provides a wonderful backdrop to Garvey's blissful vocals.
From this point on, Elbow woo the crowd with hit after hit. 'The Birds' garners huge applause, and is followed by 'My Sad Captain,' the genius lyrics of which appeal to both young and old in the crowd (Another sunrise with my sad captains/With who I choose to lose my mind). I would urge anyone interested in songwriting to look at Garvey's lyrics; his simple commentary on everyday life is both emotive and reflective, and he stands out to me as an underrated poet of this musical generation. The night, of course, would be incomplete without a play of 'One Day Like This,' which has every single audience member singing at the top of their lungs. Satisfied, Garvey and co. walk off the stage, fully confident in the crowds desire for more.
The encore was brilliant. Every parent sheds a singular tear as 'Lippy Kids' (The cigarettes senate everything then/Do they know those days are golden?/Build a rocket boys!) sounds out across Pinetum. The set closes with the ever-popular 'Grounds for Divorce,' an explosive ending to a beautiful set. Although I suspect Elbow will never be as big as they perhaps should be, they clearly win the hearts and minds of new listeners at every show, and with their secret show at Glastonbury attracting a huge crowd, it's clear that they have gathered a level of respect from music fans across generations.
Written by Adam Taylor
Edited by Issy Villiers
Photograph by Mark Thomas