Nestled atop two canals, a makeshift stage has been built to present a variety of artists to the people of Manchester as part of Sounds of the City 2019.


★★★★★ (5/5)

The crowd begins to fill the outdoor pavilion, huddled together, fingers crossed, hoping - in true British summer time fashion - that the rain holds off just a little bit longer. 

Gracing their hometown for the first time since their spring 2018 arena tour; alternative rock band Elbow - led by vocalist Guy Garvey - take the stage, pints in hand. Before launching in to their 2014 hit ‘Fly Boy Blue/Lunette’, Garvey shouts words of adoration to the crowd. Exclaiming “You beautiful city!” at almost every given opportunity, Garvey & his bandmates are clearly revelling in the pride and nostalgia that must come from being able to sing alongside adoring friends, family and fans. 

The band then continue their set into familiar favourite, ‘The Bones of You’. Midway through the song, a train rumbles through the left side of the Castlefield Bowl. A crowd had gathered along the windows of the train in hopes of catching a glimpse of whoever was playing. This gathers Garvey’s attention and after beckoning the crowd to wave at the passersby, he sings the rest of the chorus to the train as it pulls away. 

Elbow follow on to play their most recent album’s lead single ‘Magnificent (She Says)’ and mellow love song ‘Mirrorball’ before stopping to talk to the crowd for a minute. Garvey explains to the crowd that they finished recording their Eighth studio album ‘Giants of all Sizes’ that morning and that himself and the band wish to share an unnamed track with the crowd for the first time. The track will in no doubt please fans of the band’s 2008 Mercury Prize winning studio album ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ as it mixes with the tone and atmosphere created in 2017’s ‘Little Fictions’ to create an upbeat and catchy guitar laden single that fits perfectly into the style Elbow are renowned for.

Taking inspiration from little spats with his wife to his parent’s divorce, Garvey goes on to detail the drama and cinematics of falling out with the ones you love in 2017 title track ‘Little Fictions’. The peaceful instrumentals of the song mixed with Garvey’s husky vocals perfectly set the scene as golden hour bathes the crowd and deep orange & red lights warm the stage. Another train drives by and very fittingly as Garvey sings of “fifty souls to a carriage”, he decides to dedicate the rest of the song ‘Kindling’ to the fifty odd souls watching from their carriages as they pass by.

The band stop for a moment to share some old stories with the crowd, discussing familiar faces and places with loyal fans who have clearly stuck around since Elbow’s early days. It was during this discussion and the following performance of ‘My Sad Captains’ that it becomes particularly apparent that being a part of this crowd is not like standing among 8450 strangers but rather reuniting with old friends, singing along to the same beloved tunes. Guy Garvey (lead vocalist), Craig Potter (piano), Mark Potter (guitar) and Pete Turner (bass) smile and laugh at each other through the song like they’re just playing for fun, like a family reunited, simply happy to be back in each other’s company sharing the music that they love, with the city where their whole career began.

Elbow continue with ‘Station Approach’ and ‘Lippy Kids’, before beginning to close their set with platinum certified, arena anthem ‘One Day Like This’. Famed for its use by the BBC throughout multiple of its programmes including the 2012 London Olympics and live recording at Abbey Road; the sweeping orchestra and triumphant chorus provides the crowd with an unparalleled sense of unity and pride I’ve ever seen at a gig. It’s an atmosphere to be marvelled at and appreciated considering the tragedy faced by the people of Manchester just over a year ago. 

Finally, Mark Potter begins the foot stomping guitar riffs of ‘Grounds for Divorce’. The grungy fan favourite brings the show to a close, leaving the crowd on a high. Elbow are truly a credit to their craft, not only as creators of unique anthems that would likely be recognised by anyone across the UK, but as performers who can return to their roots and bring a room together like they never left in the first place.


  • Fly Boy Blue / Lunette

  • The Bones of You

  • Magnificent (She Says)

  • Mirrorball

  • Empires

  • Little Fictions

  • Kindling

  • The Birds

  • My Sad Captians

  • Station Approach

  • Lippy Kids

  • One Day Like This

  • Grounds for Divorce



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