Elbow: The Seldom Seen Kid, Live at Abbey Road

Yesterday, it came in the mail.

Elbow and the BBC Concert Orchestra. The Seldom Seen Kid Live at Abbey Road.

For two months I’ve been wanting this, the live recording of the entirety of their Mercury Prize-winning fourth album, backed by the BBC Concert Orchestra and a concert choir. From the moment I heard they were releasing a CD/DVD set, I knew I had to have it.

I loved The Seldom Seen Kid. Oh, I didn’t at first. That first time in the CD player, I didn’t have a hook. What was I listening for? What would grab me?

The second time, however, the album found its purchase, and I was captivated. “The Bones of You,” “Mirrorball,” “One Day Like This,” “The Loneliness of the Tower Crane Driver.” These songs, the whole album really, made itself into my album for summer 2008.

Coldplay’s Viva La Vida didn’t even have a chance. 😆

I heard about the live performance of the album at Abbey Road Studios, and I wished I could have watched the broadcast on the BBC. When they announced that a limited edition would be available through the band’s website, I placed an order instantly.

And I found a bootleg mp3 to bide my time.

(I’m not sure now where the bootleg came from; there are differences in the introductions and the performance. Perhaps it’s an earlier run-through?)

I’ve listened to the album now, and the sound is incredibly rich. The movement of the strings on “Tower Crane Driver” is incredibly moving — and the moment of pure emotional catharsis in the album version of the song comes through well with the orchestra. “Some Riot” here is painful to listen to in its beauty. There’s not a bad performance here.

I’ve also watched the concert DVD.

I was expecting, because I’d ordered it from the UK, that I would get a PAL-formatted disc. Which instilled me with no terrors; I have multiregion DVD players at hand. But no, I got a Region 0 NTSC disc, which was quite fine by me.

There’s a band commentary on the disc. I listened to that.

It was amazing to watch the band perform. They clearly had fun on songs like “Grounds for Divorce.” There were moments where they were overwhelmed with emotion, either from the enormity of the moment or from the music itself. Things like that don’t really come through in the audio — it’s something you have to see.

The only thing that mars the set is a typo in the booklet, where it states, in the very first sentence, that the concert was held in January 2008, not January 2009. I’ll overlook that, though.

The set itself is beautifully packaged. It’s in a sturdy box. The discs come in sleeves, and as they’re small and tight, I doubt I’ll be taking them out often. It comes with five postcards and a booklet filled with photography. The package looks like The Seldom Seen Kid album, from the front artwork to the way the booklet is laid out to the typography used. It’s a quality package.

The album is, in fact, available through Amazon as an import.

A recurring theme in the commentary track is that people don’t ordinary listen to commentary tracks. I used to listen to commentary tracks all the time, until I realized that life was too damned short. So every few minutes someone in the band would say, “Oh, we’re probably down to two listeners by now.” Near the end, Guy Garvey says that anyone still listening at that point really has suported the band over the years, and a toast is raised.

I liked that.

I’ve bought tickets to see Elbow in concert in August, and I’m quite looking forward to that. They’re a wonderful band, and I feel like they write their music for me.

That’s not such a bad feeling.

Originally published here.