Gig review by Zyllah Moranne-Brown with photography by Ken Harrison.

So tonight’s gig takes us to a forest. Quite literally in Cheshire. Delamere Forest to be precise. Few thousand camping chairs, picnics going on – we’ve set up camp and wait for tonight’s headliner; we’re building rockets in forests with the delectable and friendly bunch that are elbow.

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Traveling from the Midlands we’ve hit a few showers, but as we set up our pitch for the evening – the sun  emerges from behind the clouds and Steve Mason has taken to the stage to entertain us.

It’s a chilled refined affair, Mason and his band are singing away on the stage. Mason, a founder member of the Beta band, his soulful upbeat tunes are great for a night sitting in the sun chilling out. Just what the doctor ordered.

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The Forestry Commission have been putting on these Forest Live  since 2001 (starting off with Jools Holland and The Levellers), and is remarkably in it’s sixteenth season! All proceeds go back into work in the Forests and tonight’s  goes right back to Delamere. The stage is situated on the edge of a forested area, there is a natural circular grassy bowl, a truly natural arena surrounded by trees as a natural sound break too, for the gathered crowds to chill out in a semi circle. The sound is carrying perfectly around us. And another thing we just love – it’s not  commercialized. Warm and friendly, and indeed Family friendly. We like.

At 8.40pm, the stage lights flicker and Garvey and the boys take to the stage. Garvey encourages arms waved side to side – ‘Any Day Now.’

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“Good evening everyone. Everyone alright. Nice to see you all…” Mantra Luna. These words will return. Encouraged to keep a hands in the air and clap: ‘The Bones of You’.  Clap clap.We do.

He has a bucket. With clangers. Too many name checks he’s been told, so time to place a deposit in said bucket every time he does. “Hands on the hill!” he orders…” Just cos your sat down don’t be lazy….” And the beautiful ‘Fly Boy Blue / Lunette.’

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They have a new album out ‘ Little Fictions’ which of course we’ve all purchased. This one is apparently a big favourite of Bob Geldof. [Bucket!] ‘My Sad Captains.’ “Beautiful Delamere.” he declares – to indeed a beautiful rendition. It’s Jess’s birthday (their manager’s daughter) so we sing to congratulate her. It’s not the first time they’ve played at Forests Love – in 2008-they stepped in for someone called James Morrison…

Everyone who likes trains. he tells us. He trains me. ‘Station Approach’ rocks on down, and Garvey declares “You lot are fun…”Garvey of course, is the ring-meister tonight. Engaging and witty, us chilled punters are loving it, warming arms, singing along.

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‘Switching Off’ is a complicated song. And apparently a huge favourite of Sir Paul McCartney. [Bucket!] and he received a letter from Yoko Ono saying how much she liked this next one. [Bucket!] and so do we …’New York Morning.’

Mantra Luna. Would have been a good band name….

Meanwhile back to the tunes – ‘Magnificent (She Says)’ and then as the stage goes all twinkly, it’s ‘Mirrrorball’, the light is fading now, the cloud block the moon, who is undoubtedly taking a sneaky peek at tonight’s performance from somewhere behind them. It’s Una’a last gig. “Don’t go Una…” we say. “There you go – you can’t go.” says a decisive Garvey.

The chord  strike up, stomp: ‘The Birds.’ All 8 + minutes of elbow rocking out. Garvey hates arguing; the chatty intro into the next one ‘Little Fictions.’ Rising ballad that stomps along in that classical elbow way.

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“Cheers everyone. Everyone still okay? Song about love and trains….. ….Hands wave side to side. Let’s see your phones...” ‘Kindling.’ Camera phones in the air. It’s dark now.

Last song. We boo. “Jesus. How quickly they turn… beware the baying crowds…” Garvey was once sat with Axl Rose. [Bucket!]

And he gets us to chant. We’re gonna do as we are told – we know what is coming. ‘One Day Like This.’ A song which maybe should be a bit of an albatross around their necks, becomes a rising celebration of oneness. We chant, with the band, and by ourselves… join in. You know you want to….

“Throw those curtains wide!
One day like this a year’d see me right,
Throw those curtains wide!
One day like this a year’d we’ll sing it right….”

Quick break for encore – the time has flown by – they’ve been on set for over an hour and a half and it’s gone by in a flash.

Whistle. Lippy kids.Build a rocket boys……”we chant loudly.

Big cheer for Forest Live. Big cheer! “Came down to the trees…. And got in touch in tough with my inner tree person…”And the guitar cranks out.’Grounds for Divorce.’ Wooooohoooo. Grinding guitars and thumping drums. And kids that be seldom seen. Big cheers and a huge drum roll.

“Cheers everyone. Raise a glass.”

On a night like this, in a forest in the middle of nowhere once again, we hung out with these self-effacing bunch of guys, as ridiculously talented as they might be, we’d like to continue and drink a few bevvies. Beautiful and sublime – funny – yet all encompassing. Times they may be a tad depressing, but elbow are the rising hopeful tonic we all need on a summers eve. Raise a glass and build some rockets boys….

If you’ve missed out – you really should pop along and see Forest Live!

For more images from tonight’s performance visit our Flickr page.


Setlist
Any Day Now
The Bones of You
Fly Boy Blue / Lunette
Head for Supplies
My Sad Captains
Station Approach
Switching Off
All Disco
New York Morning
Magnificent (She Says)
Mirrrorball
The Birds
Little Fictions
Kindling
One Day Like This

Encore:
Lippy Kids
Grounds for Divorce

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