Posts Tagged ‘Elbow’

A while back, Bruce and a barman at Fitzroy’s Black Pearl entered into a late night / early morning conversation about creating a cocktail inspired by the Elbow single Grounds For Divorce. It went on to win Best Whisky Cocktail in Australia and will see its creator head to London later in the year to compete for the Best Cocktail in the World title at Diageo’s World Class event.

Said creator and the cocktail have now made it to the pages of the current edition of Beer and Brewer magazine. Hurrah!

Grounds For Divorce1

Could have mentioned Bruce by name...

Now to come up with one for The Flaming Lips’ Talkin’ Bout The Smiling Deathporn Immortality Blues (Everyone Wants To Live Forever)…

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When The Lovely Guy TM is in town you have to mind your manners.

“When is it polite to start asking for requests?” yelled Bruce as the stirring finale to Loneliness Of A Tower Crane Driver faded away.

“I like the cut of your jib,” replied The Lovely Guy TM.

Switching Off,” came a shout from a few yards behind Bruce and Fran.

“Aye, that’s the one,” replied Bruce.

“Now this song is about the theory that when you’re on your death bed you get to choose the memory you take with you…” began The Lovely Guy TM by way of explanation.

‘Marvellous,’ thought Bruce.

At the Pies – Crows game at the MCG on Saturday, Bruce, Fran, Mr and Mrs Bruce Snr and various assorted loons were sat a few rows back from a young man who spent the game tearing a plastic bag into very thin strips while rocking back and forth violently in his seat. He was clearly enjoying himself and full credit to his pops for bringing him along to the game. Bruce became that man (minus the plastic bag) as Switching Off played out; amazing the power of music.

As for the rest of the show, well:

  1. It pays to know there are two stages at the Corner. Bruce and Fran were quietly delighted that, despite staying upstairs drinking until just prior to the support act finishing, there was plenty of room at the front of the stage. They were also delighted that they were going to watch one of their favourite bands squeeze onto such a tiny stage (three of them are rather portly). Then they realised there was another bigger stage and people were already packed in around it. (Fran used her midget skills to get them to the front however – huzzah!)
  2. Elbow are stupendously good in a live setting; credit in particular to Mark Potter and his collection of guitars for his mood setting, like a one man feng shui workout. Highlights (other than the obvious): a mighty Grounds For Divorce, a neck hair-raising Tower Crane Driver, a pounding Leaders Of The Free World, a tear-jerking nod to the lads in Weather To Fly (or Weather With You as a drunk Bruce insisted on calling it with their manager post show – bloody Finns) and a welcome (and unexpected) Station Approach (Fran cried in anticipation of “I haven’t seen my mum for weeks” – yes, in anticipation of it…). Oh, and the first ever Elbow anthem One Day Like This, obviously. No place for Fugitive Motel or Grace Under Pressure, mind you.
  3. Aussie crowds are a particularly reticent bunch. Despite an acknowledgement that Melbourne is the band’s favourite Aussie city (“You’re just like: ‘Of course’, aren’t you,” said The Lovely Guy TM) there was barely a shuffle on the floor other than the odd exception. They got down to !!! last year and give it some welly at festivals, but elsewhere – come on, chaps, show some love.
  4. Steve Coogan is, as has been said and written many times before, a nobsack, demanding a personal audience with the band after the show.

Next up, Alabama 3. Oh baby!

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Having the time of their lives

Having the time of their lives - can't you tell?

It’s too late to get tickets for their Corner Hotel show unless anyone fancies forking out hundreds of dollars for a $60 ticket (it would be worth it, mind you) and only the criminally unstable would want to risk what’s left of their sanity to catch an hour of Elbow in the midst of dross such as Snow Patrol, Duffy, Razorlight and their ilk at V, but here’s some words from Guy and Pete anyway:

* * *

Elbow’s agent might want to give footy tipping a try when the band touches down in Melbourne later this month – it seems he has something of the seer about him.

For, while the band seemed destined to remain nearly men after middling sales greeted all four critically-acclaimed albums, he thought differently.

“He always said that the fifth album would be the big one,” says bassist Pete Turner. “Now it looks like he might be right.”

With The Seldom Seen Kid, their latest (and fourth) album, helping Elbow secure a Brit award for Best British Group and the prestigious Mercury Music Prize for best album of 2008, the scene is set for the Manchester five-piece finally – after almost two decades together – to enjoy some time in the limelight.

“It’s been a bit of a mad year for us – things just keep happening,” says Turner. “The last few months have been really good. There’s not been a period of time to take everything in as it’s been one thing after another, but we all feel that we should make hay while the sun shines.”

They arrive in Australia for the V Festival after their first headline show at Wembley Arena, a venue where they’ve supported the likes of Muse and Snow Patrol but not the first place you would imagine Elbow’s brand of slow-burning, intense and moody rock.

But, after blowing away a huge crowd at last year’s Glastonbury Festival it’s an experience they were more then ready for.

“The most affecting shows are either the intimate ones or those that are incredibly big,” says frontman Guy Garvey. “The smaller ones are great for that one-to-one feeling and at the really huge ones you have this large group of people united.

“I went to see U2 at the Manchester Evening News Arena and beforehand I’d been in two minds whether or not to bother, but a friend had got us tickets. When they played Pride, a song that’s a part of everybody’s DNA, the whole place started singing and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”

Their own One Day Like This – comfortably the nearest the band has ever come to writing a straightforward anthem, complete with sing-a-long chorus and uplifting string stabs – has had a similar effect at recent shows.

“That song really resonated with people,” says Garvey. “I wish I knew why – people have been getting married to it all summer – even having babies to it!”

As for Australia, Elbow are delighted to be back after a two-year hiatus, particularly as their adopted hometown of Manchester (they’re originally from nearby Bury) doesn’t have the greatest weather.

“One of our friends, I think from The Doves, told us before we first came out here that it was well worthwhile – that the crowds are really up for it and really get behind you,” says Turner.

“We wish we could come out a lot more than we have as it’s a fantastic, beautiful country, a place that we see as a treat. Manchester’s always been rainy so I can’t wait to get to Australia and get a bit of vitamin D!”

Looking ahead, album five – the big one – is already taking shape. The band laid down the bare bones during ten days spent in a converted church on the Isle of Mull off Scotland’s West Coast shortly before embarking on this tour.

There won’t be any new songs making an appearance live just yet, although Turner claims it will be unlike The Seldom Seen Kid, citing Radiohead’s Kid A as an inspiration for the band not to rest on their laurels and try and replicate a tried and tested formula for success. “You have to follow your heart. We always set out to make music that’s for the five of us,” he says.

There is also a children’s animated film in the pipeline with three of the band now fathers but, while the steady stream of kids over recent years has changed some elements of the band’s life – shorter tours for example, their reputation for boozing remains intact.

“When we go on tour with other bands they already seem to know about our love of a drink so we end up dragging them down with us,” admits Turner.

“We’re getting older now so we tried to cool it on the last tour with [Canadian band] The Acorn but, as the tour goes on, beer o’clock just gets earlier and earlier.”

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Be afraid

Be afraid

Now, cocktail lounges aren’t usually Bruce’s thing, him being closer in spirit to spit and sawdust than spit and polish, but with some of Fran’s friends being part of the furniture at the Black Pearl, in Brunswick Street, an exception has had to be made, even if it means enduring a steady stream of soft house music and people dressed far smarter than he.

On the plus side, there are plenty of comfy seats and the bar staff do mostly sport facial hair (albeit far more lovingly tended to than the varieties grown on Bruce and Fran’s side of Smith Street*). What’s more, they’ve got to know the staff fairly well, in particular the lovely Chris (the tall, dark-haired chap with big eyes and a cheeky grin).

This in itself has had its ups and downs. Starting with the latter, there has been more than one occasion when the already tipsy couple has wandered in to end the night and Bruce has challenged the bar staff to make him their favourite cocktail using a base spirit of his choosing. When you receive a text from a barman apologising for the last drink you were made the night before, well… just think twice when you’re offered a Fog Cutter, even if it does come in a Tiki mug.

On the other hand…

On Elbow’s award-winning Seldom Seen Kid, the lead single Grounds For Divorce opens with the line: “I’ve been working on a cocktail called Grounds For Divorce”. So, at 1.30am one Saturday morning:

“Chris. Fancy making me a cocktail called Grounds For Divorce,” asks Bruce. “The only guideline is that it must contain whisky or brandy and some beer.”

… the parameters set with Guy Garvey in mind. Surely, after all, if he were to 1) get married then 2) get divorced through drink, the tipple of choice would be beer and whisky or brandy what with him being a stout Northern chap (or possibly 7% cider during festival season).

“Hmmm… whisky and beer,” said Chris. “Guess it would have to be a porter. Something chocolatey and sweet to lift the spirit. And how about a Talisker?”

“Yep. A classic malt. Spicy too. Let’s try it.”

A few trials later – and a trip across to the Provincial to pick up a bottle of James Squire Porter (yes, Provincial, this is why your porter sales have gone up) – and there was the makings of something special.

Fast forward a few weeks and the finished product – Talisker, JS Porter, walnut and chocolate liqueurs served over ice from a porter bottle complete with specially-designed label – is entered into the Australian whisky leg of the World Class Cocktail competition. It comes first.

Chris may have to fly to London for the global final later in the year. Hopefully, Guy and the boys will be good enough to drop in for one while in Melbourne.

* Bruce suspects that much of the “rough and ready” facial topiary seen around Collingwood is either a) the result of hours of careful pruning in front of a mirror with all manner of scissors, tools and razors or b) carried out at that pink hairdressers (Lure, methinks?) that looks like it was lovingly recreated after a marathon session watching Beauty School Dropout on repeat.

(PS – Diageo thought the connotations of “Grounds For Divorce” were inappropriate for a booze competition so Chris has had to rename the drink “Garvey’s Dream” for the purposes of the final. Saps)

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Thank God for sideshows. For a few weeks there, Bruce and Fran were faced with the awful thought that they may have to attend the V Festival to see Elbow and thereby endure The Killers, Snow Patrol, Duffy, Razorlight and their ilk (God – shuddering just writing those names – may have to wash mouth out with soap and water and perform a detergent enema daily for the next month).

Still, April 2. The Corner. Reunited with the lovely Guy. In the meantime, this is special:

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