It’s always a strange feeling when a treasured band crosses over into the mainstream, particularly if it has been a long time coming, but news that Elbow will be playing a stadium tour next year is particularly galling.
Fewer bands are more deserving of such crossover. Elbow were famously dropped twice by the same label before debut album Asleep in the Back was released, then they switched to Fiction for third album Leaders of the Free World before promptly finding themselves label-less again, and 2008’s breakthrough album The Seldom Seen Kid was made by a band who weren’t sure if it would ever see the light of day. The unexpected success of the album surprised no one more than the band themselves.
So why is their step up to the big league in any way cause for concern? Four words: One Day Like This. For years, Elbow’s fans have clasped the band to their hearts, a rare and precious musical jewel. Just listen to Newborn. There are few finer songs in the world: it actually sounds like magic brewing. And they managed to conjure the same hushed awe throughout their career: Grace Under Pressure, Powder Blue, Great Expectations, The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver, Switching Off… From anyone else, One Day Like This would have been impressive, but it seemed almost beneath Elbow, and yet it became something of an anthem in 2008, soundtracking pretty much everything, including that year’s Big Brother finale. It became a Yellow, a Chasing Cars, and it damn near ruined their tour, packing bigger and bigger venues with people only there for the ‘song about the curtains’.
The fear is that Elbow will try to cater for this new fanbase. By no means should they only do it for those than claim to be proper fans because they have EPs from 2000 – of course they shouldn’t – but the idea that they might do a Snow Patrol is more than a bit worrying. Not because more people will like them, but because the prospect of the band losing their ability to craft such aural wonder with the same 12 notes as everybody else is too devastating to consider.