Finding Beauty in Sorrow

In March. when the world was shutting down in the face of COVID-19, Elbow announced two things. First, they were postponing their upcoming live shows due to the pandemic. Sad, but not unexpected, and not something that affected me directly, as the band hadn’t announced an east coast tour. Second, they were releasing a new live album, Live at the Ritz: “Recorded in October 2019 in the intimate surroundings of The Ritz in Manchester, the album includes acoustic versions of tracks from ‘Giants of All Sizes’ alongside older favourites.”

I ordered the CD immediately, not even thinking about how the pandemic might affect international mail deliveries.

On April 21st, I received an email that the CD had shipped from the EU.

The CD arrived today, slightly more than two months later.

Honestly, I’d given up on expecting the album. If it arrived, it arrived. If it didn’t, it didn’t.

I listened to the CD this afternoon, and when the band got to “Weightless,” I started crying.

I talked about the song in the “#elbowrooms Sessions” post (which, of this writing, I still need to update with the final songs from that project), but let me add to that.

“Weightless” is the final song on the band’s newest studio album, Giants of All Sizes. I first heard parts of it Guy Garvey was interviewed on All Things Considered in mid-October. (Story here.) I’d recently been released from the hospital; I spent a week in intensive care. (When I was in the hospital, one of the things that helped keep me sane and pass the time was streaming a symphonic Beatles concert emceed by Garvey for BBC Radio 2.) I was looking forward to the new elbow album; one of the tracks was released as a single while I was in the hospital, but I don’t remember listening to it there, so when NPR played a snippet of some of the songs during the segment, this was my first time hearing most of them.

The end of the segment plays a snippet from “Weightless.” Garvey talks about where the song came from — his feelings for his toddler son and his recently deceased father. That brief snippet captivated me immediately. Maybe it was the beauty of it. Maybe it was simply being emotionally vulnerable to it, having been in the hospital and adjusting to my new reality as a visually impaired person. Maybe both and more. Whatever the reason, I loved “Weightless” immediately, even without hearing the whole thing. When I finally heard it in full, I loved it even more. “Weightless” may be my most played song off Giants of All Sizes.

Hearing “Weightless” again today, in this acoustic version from Live at the Ritz, brought me to tears. It wasn’t just the beauty of the performance and the sense of sadness in the lyrics. It was the feeling of how much the world has changed in three months. It was the thought of the people I know and love I’ve not seen in six months or more. It was a recognition of how much the world has changed in the last three. It was the feeling of disconnection from the people that matter to me. It was the feelings of loneliness and isolation due to the lockdown and ongoing social distancing. We humans, we’re social creatures, even me, and we’re going through a difficult time, and hearing “Weightless” filled me with sorrow and mourning for things lost, but its beauty reminded me there are things in this life that matter and filled me with hope for the future.

“Do not fear to weep, for not all tears are evil.”

The rest of elbow’s Live at the Ritz is good, too. :)

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