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a late but brilliant Co-Op Live opening

After three weeks of chaos and delays, tonight Elbow are the first act to play Co-Op Live, the UK’s largest arena with a capacity of 23,500. Addressing the crowd before singing the delicious indie waltz of ‘The Bones of You’, hometown hero frontman Guy Garvey says: ‘Everyone who worked on this building was so excited today – so nervous and get excited – and there was already electricity in the air before you walked in here, and now it’s been amped up completely.”

The Bury band was actually the fifteenth act scheduled to take place at Co-Op Live, but numerous high-profile failures saw it compared to Manchester’s version of Fyre Festival and dubbed “Co-Flop Live”. In addition, there is the serious juxtaposition of the city getting another enormous dome in a climate where the core venues – which provide the key conduit for arena-filling acts – are at risk. This situation was not helped by a chief executive, who has now resigned, rejecting calls for a vital £1 ticket charge for all arena-sized concerts and above, while wryly arguing that some smaller sites are “poorly managed”. The owners have since agreed to discuss the idea with the Music Venue Trust. Attracting high profile shows such as the MTV Awards to the city also comes at a time when spiraling rents are costing Manchester’s young bands and gentrification sees city center venues such as Night & Day under threat .

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – MAY 14: A general view of the Co-op Live arena as Elbow perform their inaugural live show at Co-op Live on May 14, 2024 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Shirlaine Forrest/WireImage)

Given the extremely bad PR, expectations were so low that if you managed to get through the concert without an air conditioner falling from the ceiling onto your head, it could be considered a bonus. Inside, it’s pretty much the same as any other arena, albeit with a top-notch sound system. And if there’s one band that can comfortably go with the flow, it’s Elbow, who have spent ten albums defying expectations to become national treasures. Dropped by their label, they responded with the 2008 Mercury Music Award-winning “The Seldom Seen Kid” and the ubiquitous anthem “One Day Like This,” and spent the next six albums pushing forward creatively and resisting repeating that formula.

“Let’s open this place up properly!” Garvey commands as Elbow raises the curtain with jazzy renditions of “Things I’ve Been Telling Myself for Years” and “Lover’s Leap” from new album “Audio Vertigo” with samba flexes – and a brass section digs fully into the record’s Garvey described “loose, gnarly grooves”. It’s a night of emphatic character studies, big-hearted honesty and detailed tracks, notably the synth-driven ‘Balu’, a bard tribute to hedonistic friends, while genres like ‘Station Approach’ are shot. it is the city’s DNA.

Garvey is a reliably charismatic presence, stroking glittering fingers during ‘Mirrorball’ (which is accompanied by a glittering ball descending from the ceiling) dropping references to local haunts such as Oxford Road bar Big Hands, joking that his hair looks like Swiss Tony ( “Playing a hometown crowd is like making love to a beautiful woman,” he jokes, referring to the character Charlie Higson) and organizing different sections of the crown to harmonize on “Grounds for Divorce.” Before the sumptuous sadness of “My Sad Captains,” he asks, “What do we think of this amazing room, everybody? How do you feel when you baptize him?”

Kicking off with “Lippy Kids,” a beautiful evocation of the piss and vinegar of adolescence that builds into a sing-a-long juggernaut, Garvey teases, “You’ve warmed up the house, this beautiful new place. Shall we sing one last song together? Does anyone have any ideas? It has to be something unifying…sung with a Nordic accent from the heart. We have to mention the soft furnishings’, before ‘One Day Like This’ duly brings the house down – but thankfully not the air-conditioning units – as the past three tumultuous weeks are washed away.

Elbow played:

“Things I’ve Told Myself For Years”
“Lovers’ Leap”
“Your Bones”
“Mirrorball”
‘Load’
“Fly Boy Blue / Lunette”
‘The picture’
“Dexter & Sinister”
“Prom”
“Puncture Repair”
‘The source’
‘The Birds’
“Good Blood Mexico City”
“Station Approach”
“My Sad Captains”
“Magnificent (she says)”
“Grounds for Divorce”
“Babies with Lips”
“a day like this”