Scattered Black and Whites, Elbow in Concert

In the usual sniffy comment about these things, I liked Elbow before One Day Like This hit the mainstream charts and was used as a backing track for anything that required an uplifting melody.

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Guy Garvey sings to the crowd at the NIA, 23rd March 2011

Back in 2011 I was fortunate enough to photograph Elbow at the NIA in Birmingham, their shows are more reserved affairs, nothing like the lights and theatre of Paramore, Boyzone or My Chemical Romance, that doesn’t mean to say they don’t put on grand performances, just over a year after filling out the NIA, they would hold a concert at Jodrell Bank in the shadow of those grand telescopes.

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Richard Jupp (I believe, please correct me if wrong), The NIA, 23rd March 2011

Guy Garvey, the erstwhile front-man of the band Elbow is quite a figurehead, a more charismatic one I challenge you to find and I include the Gallagher brothers and Bono in that, why? Because he may not swear at a sibling and the press, nor wear ridiculous glasses and leather trousers, but an engagement with the audience not unlike Freddy Mercury is what he has and it bears out in Elbows’ concerts.

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A solemn moment for Guy Garvey, The NIA, 23rd March 2019

Why is this? In my opinion it’s the songs.

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Guy Garvey catches the camera, The NIA, 23rd March 2011

There are far too many Elbow songs to analyse, but take the song in the title of this blog post as an example:

A high-back chair, he sits and stairs
A thousand yards and whistles marching-band
Kneeling by and speaking up
He reaches out and I take a massive hand
Disjointed tales 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

Most people my age can surely relate to these words, my uncle used to sit in the same chair, every Sunday, and regale us with stories of life in the Navy.

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Guy Garvey, The NIA, 23rd March 2011

Similarly, Elbow have a song called Station Approach, which details that feeling of coming home after being away for a period of time.

It’s not all schmalz, Leaders of the Free World is a damning verdict on wars, specifically the Iraq War.

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Guy Garvey, The NIA, 23rd March 2011

Elbow are something special, you may not agree and their music may not be your thing, but there’s a heart-felt quality and meaning to their songs which is undeniable. If you liked One Day Like This, perhaps it’s time to check out their other works which, once you hear their lyrics, will demonstrate the depth and love they put into their work.

In a review some years ago, NME called them “the drinking man’s Coldplay,” I agree completely.


The photographs here are stylised unapologetically using a Kodak Tri-X 400, the favourite of Don McCullin. I’ve not done a predominantly black and white conversion and I feel this set is appropriate for such a treatment.

Also, it’s quite forgiving in low light!

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