Live Review: Elbow with C Duncan at 9:30 Club, Washington, DC – 4th November 2017

By on Monday, 6th November 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

Elder statesmen of rock Elbow are no strangers to DC, reliably appearing in the Nation’s Capital whenever they decide to do a tour on this side of the pond. There are many reasons for their love for Washington, some more literal if you ever get the chance to ask them personally, which I encourage you to do so, as they are some of the sweetest people you will ever meet. At their sold out show here Saturday night, Guy Garvey’s quip that the reason why the city got its name is because the 9:30 Club is where musicians do their washing – laundering clothes to us Americans – isn’t wrong either. The venue has become legendary among bands for their in-house washing machine, along with their massive hospitality efforts towards those who grace their stage. 9:30-branded chocolate cupcakes, anyone?

I’ve seen Elbow a couple of times now, and ‘reliable’ is a good word to describe their live show. ‘Heartwarming’ is another good adjective for them, on which I’ll expand on later. First, I would like to point out their admirable efforts to prevent the all too frequent scourge at shows: the loud and impolite conversations that take place during support sets. In addition to this sign placed prominently near the entrance of the venue, Guy Garvey introduced C Duncan himself, appealing passionately to the audience to be quiet and pay attention during his set. No doubt Garvey remembers with much gratitude when fellow Mancunians Doves decided to take a chance, bringing along his then-unknown band to the very same venue 15 years ago.

Except to those like us here on TGTF who keep a watchful eye on things like the Mercury Prize back in the UK, C Duncan is a relative unknown here in North America at the moment. Hopefully, this support slot with Elbow will do much to change that. As you’ll read in my interview feature with him, Duncan has sensed that Elbow fans are a special breed of music fan, the kind who tend to be more open-minded about new sounds than most. If this show had been back in Britain, we would have seen him with a full band, but due to prohibitive visa costs (thanks, powers that be in America), he performed alone on the big 9:30 stage.

C Duncan Washington 2017 1

C Duncan offered up songs from his Mercury-fêted 2015 debut album ‘Architect’ and last year’s electro-driven ‘The Midnight Sun’ and with the aplomb of a seasoned performer. It’s hard to believe that a few years ago, the prospect of having to bring his complex constructions to the stage seemed daunting to him. The beautiful ‘Say’, the opening track on ‘Architect’, was a clear standout, Duncan’s wispy vocals and elegantly understated, yet superbly catchy backing proving to be a beautiful match. The icy, lush electronic orchestration of ‘Wanted to Want It Too’ – a simple, yet evocative study in longing – closed his all-too-short set. To catch up on our past coverage of C Duncan here on TGTF, head here.

C Duncan Washington 2017 2

What can be said about Elbow that hasn’t been already written? Guy Garvey is the consummate frontman: roly poly like a teddy bear and disarmingly funny, he’s the uncle who doesn’t think twice about discussing the merits of a 9:30 G&T and asking punters to stumble singing along to songs they might not know the lyrics to. And at the same show. Does this have anything to do with him and his band being from Manchester? The worker bee tattoo emblazoned on the inside of this forearm, likely inked following the Manchester Arena terror attack in May, was a silent affirmation of the love for his city.

Elbow Washington 2017 1

It’s the little things like the tattoo and Garvey’s introduction of C Duncan, they’re proof of how genuine Elbow are. So was Garvey’s earnest acknowledgment of Dennis and Lois, a music-loving couple who have been together for decades and the stars of their 2014 video for ‘New York Morning’ who just so happened to be next to me during the show. He dedicated ‘Mirrorball’ from 2008’s ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ to them and their love, as warm smiles spread from the stage and through the entire venue. As its title suggests, ‘Magnificent (She Says)’, the first single to their most recent album ‘Little Fictions’, was indeed magnificent. Songs that are stirring, soaring and ever tugging at the heartstrings: that’s what Elbow do best. And their fans wouldn’t want it any other way.

Elbow’s North American tour with C Duncan as support rolls on to Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall tonight. The tour will continue until the 18th of November, when they hit Mexico City.

Elbow Washington 2017 2

After the cut: C Duncan and Elbow’s set lists from the night.

C Duncan’s Set List:
Jupiter
Like You Do
Say
Other Side
Do I Hear?
Wanted to Want It Too

Elbow’s Set List:
Any Day Now
The Bones of You
Fly Boy Blue / Lunette
Head for Supplies
Magnificent (She Says)
Mirrorball
Station Approach
All Disco
The Birds
My Sad Captains
New York Morning
Little Fictions
Kindling
One Day Like This
//
Lippy Kids
Grounds for Divorce

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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