Anne and I were privileged to be part of the Elbow (UK band) concert at Auckland’s Powerstation on Sunday night. Elbow’s final concert for 2014. It was an amazing experience. We went with a bunch of friends including Alex who had introduced us to Elbow a couple of years ago. Five of us are (or soon will be) Presbyterian ministers – we identified that there is something in the way Elbow perform that is like the curation/crafting of church worship. One – listening; two – preparing; three – trusting; and four – executing, which combined make space for God to enter the room. This crafting requires some sort of discipline and talent as well as humility, for what actually happens on the night is contributed to by what you bring to it but much more goes on than you. There is a connection between (using Leonard Cohen’s phrase) the ‘Lord of Song’, the singers, and the congregation. This long-winded introduction is trying to convey that something bigger than all of us happened on Sunday night. It was a spiritually profound experience.
There is a real simplicity to Elbow – the music is carefully crafted but also quite minimalist – there is no covering with or hiding behind noise – there is no competition of egos – there is no hype… they simply performed their carefully crafted songs with a humility that conveys a posture of awe in what has come at them.
Are they religious? I don’t know. There are hints in many of their lyrics about the deeper things behind what we see and that seems to be enough. There is no need to be overt… it could be a Manchurian thing – kind of appealing to kiwis – just being real. They seem to be ordinary guys who you would enjoy a beer with at the pub who just happen to be immensely talented musical craftsmen. They simply seem to handle joy and lament with aplomb as if these are everyday things – and, of course, they are everyday things. There seems to be no ego stuff – no dark stuff, and no for its own sake rock and roll angst. Maybe that had a huge part to play in helping the experience be bigger and worshipful. This is a band who seem comfortable in their own skins. The church can learn from them!
The highlights… The warmth of Guy Garvey and his big arm welcoming the crowd in. The perfect blend of guitar, drums, bass, keyboards, strings and voice… really perfect yet also accessible – they lifted the crowd to a place alongside, and sometimes the crowd literally took over the songs. The new songs from The Take Off And Landing Of Everything were wonderful – bigger than the album. Anything from their magnificient The Seldom Seen Kid, where we all seemed to know the hymns. But mostly the sense that the crowd gave something back to the band – it seemed to be a genuine revelation to them that the best concert for them on this tour was this, the last concert. That’s how it should be if you are growing and connecting – the best being the latest. What a privilege to have been there and almost losing my voice having been swept up in it!
If they are new to you pop here for a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dELKUivJo4w