C Duncan // O2 Apollo, Manchester // 20.03.17
It must be quite a daunting task to support an act as big as Elbow, especially on four consecutive nights in their hometown. The crowd had filled up early in order to get prime spots for their hometown heroes, perhaps making it more unnerving for C Duncan and his band. However, Duncan is no novice when it comes to the music business. With two albums already under his belt as well as 16 dates as Elbow’s support act this tour, he seemed unfazed by his surroundings. That isn’t to say that he was strutting round the stage like Mick Jagger; rather he was shy, but perfectly friendly, responding to comments from several of his own fans in the audience but maintaining his focus on the music. This shyness came across in his breathy vocal delivery which could have done with a slight boost in level from my standpoint. Despite this, the rest of the band’s sound was excellent, with some sublime drumming on display. Duncan’s gentle vocals were juxtaposed against a big sound made up of gentle guitar jangle and excellent harmonies. Although the parts came together to make an almost ethereal tone, the synth-laden wall still managed to sound massive. This was especially evident on the standout track, ‘Other Side’ from his 2016 album The Midnight Sun. The crowd seemed impressed, and gave an excellent reception at the end. The performance seemed a good way to set up Elbow for their stint, given that their sound often shares some of the delicate qualities that C Duncan’s music has – albeit applied quite differently.
As for Elbow, one comes to expect a fine performance from such seasoned artists. They didn’t disappoint playing only 15 songs, but still managing to find time for the hits that most of the crowd will have turned out for. Each track was separated by charming conversation from frontman Guy Garvey, who took time to praise each member of the band including former drummer Richard Jupp. The crowd played their part, joining in on hits such as ‘One Day Like This’ and ‘Grounds for Divorce.’ Garvey proved himself yet again as an excellent frontman, keeping the crowd’s interest all night, even through a keyboard malfunction. It was a fine night of music from both C Duncan and Elbow, who struck a nice balance between the relaxing and the uplifting.