A couple of weeks ago, a good friend of mine flew to Perth in Australia (he’s spending his time a few hundred miles from the Third Test while he’s there) and last week, another of my good friends was in New Jersey. There’s a reason I mention these two. During the time they were away, we remain in fairly good contact and, though there would have been a point during the last fortnight that a triangle drawn between us would have been 1160 times the size of Wales, some 11 million square miles. That’s a colossal distance – almost the whole Earth.
In April next year, it has been arranged, the three of us will see that triangle shrink to less than a single yard. On his return from New Jersey, we got into a conversation about Elbow’s 2014 tour and have agreed to see them play in Leeds; one flying back from Australia shortly before, one travelling up from the south of England that day, and one who works there, but (I guess) will hold off travelling home away from Leeds that night to attend.
Elbow are a band about being a friend and a family member. Their newer work leans towards the starting of families, but the underlying theme (certainly as far as I’m concerned) to their best work is the warmth shown both to and by friends and family – Open Arms describes a trip back to the place one grew up; Dear Friends is an open letter to loved ones, even The Seldom Seen Kid is set amongst friends. They’re complemented with songs about falling in love, being in love and staying in love; not very bluff and northern, is it?
That said, there’s something of the Northern Poet about Guy Garvey – some of his lyrics are beautiful in and of themselves, taking flight to become much more than they are; while others are more perfunctory parts of songs, relying on his voice to impart them with majesty; the contrast between “You stuck a pin in the map I was in, and this is a note from the roadside”, as compared with “You’re not the man who fell to Earth – you’re the man of La Mancha” being the first that sprang to mind in that instance.
As such, there’s a certain aptness to a number of us going back to our roots to see Elbow play, and equally in taking our nearest and dearest to do so. They’re a band that are heard best through the ears of lovers and friends, and it will be fitting to be able to do so; marking a point at which Elbow have brought my friends and I from a point that we had half the world between us to a point some ten miles from where we grew up, with ourselves, and our loved ones, together.
There’s no more better tribute to Elbow than that.