Elbow at Somerset House


Features, Music, Review | by — July 14, 2006

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by Hot Cross Burns

Here’s a quick history lesson: Somerset house was completed in 1780 after the government of the day ripped down a beautiful Tudor palace (how British) in favour of a grand building to house The Royal Academy of Arts, and various government riff-raff including the Navy (hmmm, wish I’d been about then!). The building is indeed grand, and these days hosts its legendary Summer Sessions. Tonight, its Elbow’s turn.

Somerset House has a festival feel about it due to its big open courtyard, and large stage, and of course, Elbow are a seasoned festival band. In fact, the last time I saw them was on the Sunday at Glasto a few years ago, being a little tired and emotional, I cried all the way through (nb, not because of the music, more to do what I’d consumed the previous night – ask Joanna, its true*).

*Producer’s note: Yes, it’s true.

Elbow really suited the setting being quite a chilled band, only raising the tempo and really banging at the guitars towards the end of the gig. I’m not really sure how to write this without making out that they were boring, but they really are very chilled, an easy listen, and perfect for a Thursday evening having just returned from a holiday (tired and emotional again, boo hoo). Music wise, they are a top acoustic band, who can rock along with the very best of them.

I didn’t cry this time, but swayed rather a lot, and on occasion was in danger of collapsing into the also swaying mostly upper-middle-class crowd (many in tennis gear, hence the headline) who probably prefer Somerset House to festivals because they wont get their trotters slightly dusty, or God forbid… Muddy! As with most gigs, the crowd as well as the band set the tone, and this crowd were more subdued. Think mostly moneyed, posh, picnic blankets and Pimms, and you’ll get the general idea of why people sway rather than rock out!

The weird thing about Elbow was that they didn’t seem to play anything I knew. I’ve seen them a number of times, and maybe the tired thing kicked in, but I only recognised a few songs. The best thing about Elbow is their ability to bond with the crowd. Their quips and jokes about the navy were the best: “I come from a long line of semen” geddit! And they dedicated one of their songs to three of the band who had become fathers in the last year, proving that long lines of semen do appear to have been flying out of the bands nether regions over the last couple of years, ding dong. Perhaps this also explains the relaxedness of the gig? They all must be knackered from sleepless nights and changing shitty nappies!

Overall, they were a really nice band to unwind too, in a different and beautiful surrounding. There were a few too many posh birds and chaps (Steady Dr Pop, not Village People stylee, but men in Pringle) for my liking (think Tamara’s and Henry’s). But luckily, having my press pass, I got to hang out with the media monkeys when it all got a little much, and sink a few pints of bitter. Despite the fact that I didn’t know many of the songs (or maybe I did?), I had a really enjoyable evening, and would recommend this venue and series of gigs to everyone, just mind your step around the posh people…

Toilet Watch – Somerset House has very clean, well maintained toilets with many cubicles, located down some rather pretty staircases. If Pride were to take place here, I don’t think many would make the march.

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