“Elbow to control room,” Guy Garvey’s husky tones echo from the stage. “Please align the telescope.”
So it is in the shadow of this grand spectacle that Elbow take to the stage as the dish of the Lovell telescope rotates to face the crowd.
The day, curated by the band as their own small festival at the site, has provoked a fairly muted response thus far. Although the likes of Willy Mason and Cherry Ghost don’t necessarily fail to impress, it’s clear who the crowd are here to see.
There’s a lot to live up to, the last band to play here was The Flaming Lips, a band whose embrace of the outlandish, which they inject into their infamous live show, is a far cry from the bare bones aesthetic associated with an Elbow performance.
It’s instead with an air of romanticism that Elbow take on the task, opener ‘High Ideals’ an inspired choice as an accompaniment to the rotating telescope, offering a gentle operatic quality to proceedings.
Musically, the group sound fantastic and Garvey’s voice, to this reviewer, has never sounded better live. So then it’s a shame that the sound quality is inconsistent, not really packing a punch when it should and sometimes sounding jarringly loud when it shouldn’t. This wouldn’t be a problem but for the small minority who chat audibly throughout ‘Lippy Kids’ while they wait for ‘Grounds For Divorce’ (an offence punishable by death, surely?).
It’s no matter though; Garvey is the perfect host, capturing his audience, who for tonight he dubs “Jodrelites,” with an infectious charisma that, after a start noticeably lacking in atmosphere, brings the soaking wet crowd round to his way of thinking.
In a moment of solidarity the band themselves come and join the crowd in the rain for a haunting rendition of ‘The Night Will Always Win’, made more poignant by an image of the moon projected onto the face of the satellite.
A staggered start to ‘Weather To Fly’ is nothing but endearing and comes as a crowd pleaser, although surprise hit of the night is ‘Open Arms’, which provokes a mass sing-along, proving the band’s versatility outside of safe Seldom Seen Kid album territory.
A rare appearance from ‘Scattered Black and Whites’, coupled with a sensitively paced fireworks display draws total silence from the crowd. It’s brilliantly executed and a perfect set closer before the encore.
A rousing ‘One Day Like This’ is saved for last of course and brings with it more fireworks, lighting up the satellite and the crowd to great effect. It’s a magical, otherworldly end to the night and, for a while at least, plants stars in the sky in spite of the clouds.