Glastonbury Day 1: Elbow

“Glastonbury! Are you seeing clearly now the rain has gone?” Guy Garvey bounds onto the Pyramid Stage, flooding the festival with avuncular game-show cheer, like that favourite teacher who always managed to get the kids on his side at school.

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“Glastonbury! Are you seeing clearly now the rain has gone?” Guy Garvey bounds onto the Pyramid Stage, flooding the festival with avuncular game-show cheer, like that favourite teacher who always managed to get the kids on his side at school.

The Elbow singer is beaming from ear to ear, wearing a lumberjack shirt and giving 100,000 people a bear hug. All at the same time.

Once the sonic equivalent of a Keep Calm and Carry On poster, Elbow shows have grown louder and weirder in recent years, teasing out their latent undertow of prog rock with richer orchestral, percussion and electronic elements. There are times during this hour-long set when they sound like more down-to-earth northern cousins of Radiohead, veering off their usual sturdy trudge of heart-on-sleeve emotionalism into more choppy and adventurous waters. The chirruping keyboards in “The Birds” add an extra sprinkle of Frippertronic avant-rock, while the blues stomper “Grounds For Divorce” no longer sounds like an atypical novelty, more like a rip-snorting moshpit anthem that Aerosmith might envy.

Given half a chance, of course, Elbow can still slip into lumbering mawkishness and misty-eyed nostalgia. The climactic numbers “Sad Captains” and “Lippy Kids” play too much to their comfy-sofa, nice-bloke side. But this is still a perfectly judged Glastonbury performance, full of uplift and grandeur, with Garvey shamelessly working the crowd like a children’s entertainer for grown-ups.
Stephen Dalton

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