The first time I heard ‘Asleep In The Back‘, a winter’s night towards the end of 2001, I found it almost too dense to get my head around. These beautiful, ethereal tunes, simultaneously complex and yet understated, have since taken up residence as old friends. ‘Cast Of Thousands’ took even longer to make sense, and it didn’t really click until after I’d heard the rather wonderful, ‘Leaders Of The Free World’. This latter record contains one of my all time favourite songs; ‘Great Expectations’. Musically, it’s pretty great, but lyrically is where it gets me. Guy Garvey tells the story of a marriage that happened only in his mind, as he imagined nuptials with a regular passenger on the late bus.
“A call girl with yesterday eyes
Was our witness and priest
Stockport Supporters’ Club kindly supplied us a choir
Your vow was your smile
As we moved down the aisle
Of the last bus home.”
Perfect. Argue with me, if you like. I won’t listen.
And then, ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ arrived and it all changed. It’s another beautiful album and it may well be their best to date – certainly, songs like ‘One Day Like This’, ‘Friend Of Ours’ and ‘Grounds For Divorce’ support that theory – and yet, finally, the great British public have come on board. I talk, as it must have become clear by now, about Elbow.
I had the pleasure of their company at Leeds Academy last night and I’m still smiling. I don’t think I’ve ever heard such clear vocals at a concert before as the sound for Guy’s mic last night. The track, ‘Leaders Of The Free World’ is one of the most gigantic sounding songs I’ve ever heard live and there wasn’t a moment in the whole show where the band were anything other than imperial and, frankly, fucking brilliant. It’s right up there in my top five gigs; I only wish I’d gone to see them sooner. They played ‘Great Expectations’ last night, at which I entered an almost trance-like state and stood their swaying like a ninny, completely lost in that beguiling song. Until, that was, the twerps behind me decided to revive a conversation they’d been having intermittently throughout the gig.
Answer me this. Please. Why the hell would you pay for tickets to a concert only to talk through the gig? I expect a little chat during the support act – that’s life. But during the main act? You know, the ones on the fucking tickets you had to give up to get in to this venue? The people you knew you were coming to see and, presumably, at least quite like. Why go to a hot, sweaty building, with a suspiciously sticky floor and speaker stacks that could destroy hospitals to have a conversation about hats and trains? I know this might be coming across as something of an over-reaction, but what goes on between the ears of these gibbering fucknuts? If you don’t know many songs, but still decided to buy a ticket, presumably you’re expecting to like the songs you’ve not heard? Thus, perhaps, you’d actually want to hear them?
Having completed a brief assessment of how likely they were to be knife-wielding maniacs, I opted to turn round and frown sternly at them. This caused a cessation of idle chit-chat for a song or two at least, but it’s an ever-increasing problem. Towards the end of the gig, as the band were performing some of the afore-mentioned, dense but beautiful material from the debut, an exasperated male voice could be heard yelping, ‘Shut the fuck up, just shut the fuck up.” He made a fair, if not especially eloquent, point.
Anyway, Elbow were utterly fantastic and I cannot recommend them highly enough. I’m sure the people behind me would too, except of course they’ve no idea if they were any good or not.
Had a quick skip through The X Factor this morning. Yeah, I put it on Sky +, so what? Alexandra kicked things off with a terrific, ‘I’ll Be There’. The one who always starts in Spanish didn’t, and then got told off for not doing so, despite being reasonably good, while even Pontins managed a respectable, if utterly unremarkable, stab at ‘She’s Out Of My Life’. Why Michael Jackson songs, by the way? In what way is he relevant to the modern music scene, that is so frequently a reference point in much of the judges’ critical opinion?
Girlband‘s ‘Heal The World’ was hilarious. Properly bonkers, that one. The little Irish Lego man was overcome with enjoyment during the performance, suggesting that there is, actually, at least one person who likes that song. Their fate was sealed.
Talking of shit Michael Jackson songs, ‘You Are Not Alone’ got a reasonable going over by Bo-Selecta, even if the start was a bit mediocre, only to be eclipsed by an opinion-dividing performance from Austin. I was actually quite taken by his version of ‘Billie Jean’. Who cares if that version’s been done elsewhere? Isn’t that essentially the basis for pretty much every performance on The X Factor? It’d be fantastic if each show was filled with new music performed by the wannabes, but it’s never going to happen.
David Brent – leave the joke alone, Louis, or I’ll tape your hands to your sides – was coma-inducing at his best and completely shit at his worst. Strip his story away and you’ve got nothing. If it’s done on merit, I’d imagine he’ll be in the bottom two next week.
JLS brought a West End show feel to ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ and made me feel quite queasy. It was very late-eighties, New Kids On The Block-lite, and one of them has a hideously nasal voice that detracts from the half-decent work of the others. Louis’ only remaining shot at the title, and thus it’s easy to say that the-over-excitable-Girlband-dressing-room-loiterer is screwed.
Diana was, naturally, tremendous. The novelty ‘wow’ factor from last week had worn off, but it was still a wonderful rendering of ‘Man In The Mirror’ and her voice remains the most compelling on the show by miles.
Macy Gray was up next. In addition to the tinge of madness displayed last week, there was an undercurrent of menace and desperation added to the mix this week. Perhaps she’d been getting performance tips from Ringo Starr. That said, creative Brian – you know, the one they couldn’t fire after he turned out to be a shit judge, so they labelled him the ‘creative director’ – really did fill the tissue of ego-wanking with the truly bizarre concoction that the mad one was ensconced within.
Little, squidgy E-Owen was up last with, the not-especially shocking song choice, ‘Ben‘. He was rather good. Nothing more, nothing less.
Girls Aloud popped up for the results show and delivered a reasonably strong performance of their marvellous new single, ‘The Promise’. It really is good. I make no apologies.
Girlband and Not-so-Spanish-now contested the bottom two spot and, having gone to ‘DEADLOCK’, Girlband were told to go away. Quite right really. Not quite as entertaining this week, but then what was I really expecting?