Monday 18 March 2019

Prize Guy gives heartbreak the Elbow

Idiosyncratic Elbow front-man Guy Garvey is pop music's Samuel Beckett, writes our music critic ahead of the band's show tonight (and tomorrow) at Dublin's Olympia Theatre

Guy Garvey has found love again with 'Tipping the Velvet' star Rachael Stirling
Guy Garvey has found love again with 'Tipping the Velvet' star Rachael Stirling

Barry Egan

Guy Garvey - pop music's Samuel Beckett - was once asked what he would like to achieve on his last- ever day. "Let's pretend I've been training for my pilot's licence," the Mancunian replied. "I'd like to take off in a two-seater seaplane from the loch in Mull and land it expertly in the little boating lake at Heaton Park, which interestingly has a pair of my spectacles at the bottom of it from my last day at school in 1990."

When Guy's parents divorced, he was 11 at the time, his mother bought him and his brother, as he later recalled, "uncharacteristically expensive Christmas presents," uncharacteristically expensive because there were seven children, and so, recalled Guy, she had to be careful with money.

"We got ghetto blasters, and it was a bit of a revolution. I didn't have any cassettes so I poked around the house and found Hunky Dory, which Sam had bought," he says of one of his five elder sisters. "I learned all the words, and sang along, and until I got more cassettes this was the only one that was in there. They're great songs, and I don't think Bowie got there ever again."

With his band Elbow's last album The Take Off And Landing Of Everything, Guy possibly disproved the theories of cynical clever-clogs who thought Elbow would never get there again after Mercury Prize-scooping The Seldom Seen Kid in 2008.

"I'm reaching the age where decisions are made on the life and the liver, and I'm sure the last ditch," he sang on Fly Boy Blue/Lunette from The Take Off And Landing Of Everything. "But mother forgive me/I still want a bottle of good Irish whiskey and a bundle of smokes in my grave."

Just as 2014's The Take... album was coloured by the break up of his 10-year relationship with novelist Emma Jane Unsworth, so too the end of his relationship with DJ Edith Bowman was written in large parts of the Leaders Of The Free World album in 2005: "No, I know I won't forget you, but I'll forget myself," he sang on the song of that name. "The end of a relationship isn't always heartbreak," Guy told The Observer in 2014. "Sometimes it's right for both parties, and you can do it in a way where you can walk away and don't fall to pieces.

"I'm meeting the most fascinating people, and I go to some extraordinary places, and I've realised that if people like your music, you're class; and celebrity-proof. You can go anywhere.

''There is a temptation to place too much importance on those things that you're meant to do, and not into little everyday happinesses. I think if you do what makes you happy on a daily basis, your days gather into years and you have a happy life. I don't want to think too far ahead. I want to make sure that I enjoy tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. And we'll see what happens." As evidenced on his 2015 solo album Courting the Squall - where he sings on Trust the Sun, "you're my reason for breathing love" - Garvey found love and is now married to Tipping The Velvet star Rachael Stirling.

Indeed the first single, Magnificent (She Says), on Elbow's new album - their seventh - Little Fictions was written when Guy was honeymooning with his new bride last year. "After about three days on honeymoon I said to my missus, 'Any chance I can check my emails to see if the lads have written anything?' And she said, 'Yeah, OK then', and the music to Magnificent, minus the strings, was there in my inbox, and the first verse was pretty much written on the spot."

Elbow play Dublin's Olympia Theatre on February 26/27. Tickets priced from €54.50 are on sale now from Ticketmaster outlets

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