Elbow at Glasgow OVO, 11/05/2024

Elbow celebrate new album Audio Vertigo with a soul-soaring, arena-filling turn at Glasgow's OVO Hydro

It’s unseasonably warm – or what other parts of the country just call warm – as a capacity crowd fills the cavernous concrete of the Ovo. But then warmth is Elbow’s stock in trade. 

Before Bury’s finest make an uncharacteristically showbiz arrival – all strobe lights and smart jackets – there are bespoke adverts for food poverty charity The Trussell Trust. Turns out, you can tell a lot about a band by the companies they keep.

‘Things I’ve Been Telling Myself For Years’, the opener of excellent new album Audio Vertigo, is a strong mission statement. Guy Garvey’s loquacious lyrics run over a layered groove from bassist Pete Turner, drummer Alex Reeves and pianist/percussionist Craig Potter, all cut through with Mark Potter’s wiry guitar. All of this plus six backing singers, who double up on brass and strings. 

First single ‘Lovers’ Leap’ sees the whole crew bathed in dramatic red. When they played the city in 2003, a fire alarm stopped proceedings, and with this kind of ferocity, you wouldn’t bet against another one tonight. 

It’s easy to forget that Elbow aren’t a rock band who discovered ballads, but the opposite. ‘The Bones Of You’ is a beautiful reminder, fading into a trumpet-led version of Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’. 

The whole room’s aglow for ‘Mirrorball’, with Garvey pointing to members of the audience so they feel like they’re part of the gang. Ageing lovers sing to one another, and one chap even livestreams the concert to his girlfriend (note, don’t do this kids). 

‘Fly Boy Blue/Lunette’ neatly sums up the dichotomy, turning from bouncy irreverence to a wistful, mortality-facing outro. Ever the charmer, Garvey changes the lyrics so the whiskey he mentions is Scottish not Irish. “I’m only doing this for you,” he says. “Well, have you tried Welsh whiskey?” 

The clash between new and gnarly and more sedate old favourites continues with ‘Dexter & Sinister’, with special guest Jesca Hoop howling along, electro-tinged drums and an extra guitar. ‘Good Blood Mexico City’ even starts a polite pogo. Set closer ‘Grounds For Divorce’ gets the dads rocking out, and you wonder quite how much whiskey has been consumed, Scottish or otherwise. 

It’s back to that stock in trade for the encore. The soaring ‘Lippy Kids’ sounds huge, but it’s the audience’s voices taking it the rafters. ‘One Day Like This’ features each of the eleven people on stage singing, plus 5,000 extra voices. An impromptu ‘Flower Of Scotland’ sees everyone out into the sweaty Glasgow streets, their hearts a little warmer too.

Elbow continue their UK tour on 14 and 15 May, before returning again for Dreamland Margate and Heritage Live in June, July and August 2024. Find tickets here

Photo credit: Gus Stewart/Redferns