Guy Garvey at Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Strolling to stage with a pint of ale, Guy Garvey carries an air of graceful simplicity. He toasts the crowd, pivots, stoops, places his glass on an amp, plucks the mic and eases into the opener, Three Bells. A tranquil ambience and a gentle drum beat support pensive, calming lyrics: “The night the church burned down / How Hymn books flaming flew / Into the sky escaping souls / Fireflies.”
It isn’t all slow and swaying, however. An elegant rendition of Electricity sweeps us away to a dreamy corner of 1920s Paris, whilst the brass elements of Harder Edges echo Justin Hurwitzz’s soundtrack for 2015 Oscar winner, Whiplash. Midway through, bassist Pete Jobson borrows the spotlight for a solo piano piece. Afterwards, to the crowd’s delight, Garvey is joined by Elbow bandmate Mark Potter for a contemplative, acoustic version of Great Expectations.
Yet the evening’s stand-out track has to be Belly of the Whale, which features buoyant drums and a subtle funk bassline beneath crisp vocals with intermittent, sassy chirps of brass. If Ian Brown had a late-80s fling with Jools Holland, this is how Fools Gold would’ve sounded. Gaze across the dance floor and there’s at least seven dads blending Bez and Bob Fosse into a wonky, Mancunian, Brit-pop tango – the venue is rocking.
Courting the Squall is by no means a perfect album: some songs lack flavour and the overall feel is slightly too akin to Garvey’s work with Elbow to feel truly original. It is, however, an LP that scrubs up fantastically when performed live. The unique combination of funk, jazz, soul and folk is tastefully stitched together by Garvey’s distinctive vocals, whilst his playful, earnest persona keeps the concert chugging along charmingly.
Photos: Nick Bennett
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