Sunday, October 02, 2011

Elbow brings magic to Greek

Discerning listeners have been praising the wonderful British rockers Elbow for the better part of the 21st century, but Americans have admittedly been late to the party.

Thankfully, this is changing.

Although there are plenty of avowed modern rock fans who still associate an elbow with a joint located in the middle of an arm, there are an ever-growing number of listeners catching up on all the fuss about that other Elbow. Since I caught the quintet's riveting set at Coachella earlier this year, I've got mostly up to speed and own the band's most recent three albums. After catching the band at the Greek Theatre on Saturday night (Oct. 1), there is no doubt that Elbow is among my favorite modern-day rock acts.

Led by lead singer and lyricist Guy Garvey (whose voice draws easy comparisons with a young Peter Gabriel), the group's sound is at once very familiar and very unique. Blending the sensibilities of prog rock greats (Jethro Tull, Genesis, Porcupine Tree), experimental flourishes of Radiohead and Final Straw-era Snow Patrol and anthem-styled songcraft associated with Coldplay and U2, Elbow is likely the best band that far too many rock fans don't know about yet.

Before a welcoming and excited crowd at the Greek, Elbow (whose lineup also features keyboardist Craig Potter, bassist Pete Turner, guitarist Mark Potter and drummer Richard Jupp) made the most of the opportunity by performing many of the band's most stunning songs. From the opening notes of "The Birds" through the artful grace of "Mirrorball" and epic "Grounds for Divorce" to a wonderful encore that ended with the uplifting "One Day Like This," I was thrilled.

And I know now I wasn't just imagining how great Elbow was when I saw them in Indio six months ago. The band is that fantastic. My hope is Elbow will be featured on the main stage at Coachella next year, introducing this 20-year-young troupe to an even wider audience.

And imagine my surprise that the night's opening act, DeVotchKa, was nearly as strong. A creative gypsy punk outfit whose music recalls different lands and far-away times, singer-guitarist Nick Urata led the Denver quartet through a strong set that at various times recalled influences ranging from Eastern European and the Middle East to authentic American folk and indie rock in the spirit of an rootsy Arcade Fire. Forget about classifying the songs, with Urata's wonderful tenor and the strong work of Tom Hagerman (violin, accordion, keyboards), Jeanie Schroder (double bass, flute, sousaphone) and Shawn King (drums), this is a fantastic outfit who deserves (like Elbow) a bigger place in the world.

Setlist: Elbow at the Greek Theatre, Los Angeles, Oct. 1, 2011Main set: The Birds / The Bones of You / Mirrorball / Neat Little Rows / Grounds for Divorce / The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver / Great Expectations / The Night Will Always Win / Puncture Repair / The River / Lippy Kids / Weather to Fly / Open Arms
Encore: Starlings / Station Approach / One Day Like This

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