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Review Wed May 21 2014
It's been six years since Elbow played Chicago. At the time, they were riding the wave of The Seldom Seen Kid, which took that year's Mercury Prize. Since then, the band have put out two albums and evolved their arty Britpop sound behind the strengths of Guy Garvey's heartfelt lyrics and vocals, and the band's growth as songwriters and performers. But on Monday, all that concerned the sold out House of Blues crowd was hearing the pristine pop that Elbow churns out in spades.
Early in the set, they went often to their recent The Take Off and Landing of Everything album. But once they got to older songs, things naturally began to click with the crowd, from "The Bones of You"'s sweeping chorus to the raw emotion in "Scattered Black and Whites" to the titanic "Grounds for Divorce" singalong. Between those, Garvey was talkative and charismatic, telling short stories that often punctuated points about the next song. To close, they went for "Lippy Kids" and their anthemic "One Day Like This", which a girl in the balcony had been yelling about the last 15 minutes. Even though the latter can be a little repetitive, Elbow's played it so often that they know how to keep it fresh with Garvey encouraging the crowd to sing boisterously.
John Grant may have been relatively unknown, but that may not last long. His imposing presence ingratiated himself to the crowd almost immediately. And it seems like he is taking frontman cues from Guy Garvey on this jaunt across America. His short set (barely a half-hour) featured a nice set of songs, mostly from last year's way underrated Pale Green Ghosts, that feature his best attributes as a writer. The lyrics paint pictures and, even when they're a little goofy, they tug at heartstrings with universal themes. There's a little Richard Buckner in his delivery, too. Unfortunately, the synths that stand out so much in his music came off a little flat on Monday, but it was all that kept his set from being top-notch.