We went to see Elbow in concert on Friday night. It was a very beautiful evening in the impressive setting that is Hampton Court Palace. The slight breeze carried the band’s powerful, haunting melodies and clever, clever lyrics to the delighted ears of every Elbow fan.
“Another sunrise with my sad captains, with who I choose to lose my mind. And if it’s so we only pass this way but once, what a perfect waste of time.” (My Sad Captains)
After a picnic on the bright green grass of the historic gardens, we took our seats in the Palace courtyard for the concert. The section we were sitting in still had a few empty seats, apart from one in which a young man – a modest 6’7” in stockinged feet, I’d guess – sat, in front and slightly to the left of my seat. That gave me a perfect view of the back of his head, around which I could see the fringes of the stage lights. I wondered who’d invited Murphy and his Law to join us again.
(Murphy has accompanied us to a few concerts. Once to Kew the Music at Kew Gardens, when a woman pushed her way past us halfway through the concert to stand right in front of us. When my husband reached up to tap her on the shoulder and ask if she’d mind swapping places with us, she scoffed and told us to sue her for being tall. We also listened to Lisa Stansfield at one of her concerts, and caught occasional glimpses of her through the beer mugs of a group of people standing in front of us at Scala in King’s Cross. And then, in the midst of 65,000 fellow revellers at Hyde Park, waiting for Barbra Streisand to make her appearance, I asked a man in front of me if he wouldn’t mind shifting ever so slightly (I’m talking millimetres) to his left so I could see past him. He swung around, looked me up and down, and told me he wasn’t Jesus Christ and asked how the [expletive] I expected him to do that.
Those extreme experiences are fun memories to laugh about. Little knots in the thread of our music concert tapestry, haha!)
Back to Hampton Court Palace…
My disappointment must have bored into the back of the young man’s head, as he moved into the empty seat to his left, giving me an unencumbered view of the stage. Yay! But that joy was to be short-lived; approximately seventeen seconds later a family arrived, and took up that and two more of those very seats to his left. The kind chap moved back to his original seat. Darn. Now what? Ha! There were still a few empty seats to his right…
The seats all around the venue started to fill up, and I kept an eye on those empty seats in front of us with greedy longing. One of those was mine, and I willed it to remain empty. And, as the concert began, it did. I waited to see if there were any late-comers, so enjoyed the opening number, Dexter & Sinister, from the very very edge of my seat, and the very very edge of my left buttock.
Guy Garvey, Elbow’s frontman and gifted lyricist, welcomed us warmly and told us how lovely it was to be performing again. He said it felt like they’d come home, and we all agreed. I decided to stay put for the dreamy, beautiful Mirrorball.
“We made the moon our mirrorball
The streets an empty stage
The city sirens violins
Everything has changed.”
The coast then looked clear so I took my cue, and my cushion, and moved to one of those seats in front of us. Ah, what bliss – with two empty seats in front of me, I had an uninterrupted view of the beautiful stage. It looked fabulous, and Fly Boy Blue/Lunette sounded sublime. I looked around, satisfied and, okay, a little smug.
The thing they say about pride also applies to smug, I guess. As I turned back to look at the stage as The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver began, two tall people nestled into those empty seats in front of me. After giving each other a few excited cuddles, which blocked my view completely, they settled into their own seats and I could see the stage – just! – between their heads. Until, that is, she took out her phone and started to video The Birds. I didn’t really feel like watching the rest of the concert through her phone, so I moved back to the very very edge of my original seat and, once more, to the very very edge of my left buttock. The irony of Elbow’s next number, The Bones of You, wasn’t lost on me.
On the odd occasion when the guy in front of me moved his head slightly to the left, it wasn’t too bad, really. I was able to relax into the middle of my seat for the wonderful My Sad Captains, and a rousing and gorgeous Magnificent. After that, the couple two rows in front stood up and left. The move looked permanent, so I took my cushion and moved back to my first second seat to enjoy the wry Grounds for Divorce.
“There’s a hole in my neighbourhood down which of late I cannot help but fall.”
I should have known those lyrics to be a portent of the couple’s return to their seats. When they sat down, I wasn’t sure what to do next. I noticed the phone wasn’t coming out of the woman’s handbag, and the two weren’t cuddling as much this time, so I stayed. About fifty-five seconds later, they leapt to their feet, and so did everyone else. We all sang and danced and, as the band left the stage, all 3,000 of us clapped and stomped our feet to get the band back on for an encore.
Elbow obliged, and gave us the gentle Lippy Kids before getting us to sing along and harmonise with them in the rousing, fabulous, exultant One Day Like This. And then Elbow took their bows, thanked us for being there and, to thunderous applause, cheers and whistles, bid us goodnight.
After the past few years of lockdown, isolation, and no live events, the words of Elbow’s exquisite final song sum up perfectly the joy and triumph of a welcome return to live music:
“Throw those curtains wide
One day like this a year would see me right.”
Sunshine signing off for now!