Guy Garvey couldn't get over the venue his band, Elbow, played on Sunday.
"This is the most beautiful gig we've ever done, I think," the English singer-songwriter said as he surveyed the seated crowd and attractive decor in the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. Then the lapsed Catholic with the soulful voice broke into "Grounds for Divorce" from Elbow's great new CD, "The Seldom Seen Kid."
In fact, the synagogue and its lovely acoustics played an accompanying role throughout the night. Elbow, which specializes in epic rock balladry with expansive arrangements -- vaguely reminiscent of Radiohead during "OK Computer" -- used the room like an extra band mate during its 13-song set. The seven musicians were able to let their big songs, such as "The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver," wash over the space like water rushing to fill a welcoming valley.
Having a solid sense of the room after its eighth song, "The Stops" (another massive ballad), Garvey announced, "It seems to me now that synagogues were built for rock."
He encouraged the audience to take advantage of the venue's acoustics and raise their collective voice to sing a refrain from "Newborn." But as the audience hesitantly sang during the pre-song teach-in, Garvey joked, "Almost there. That was more Catholic." He then broke into a mumbling approximation of a Christian hymn.
The audience felt more confident singing during "On a Day Like This" later in the set, but ultimately it did just fine during "Newborn," whose soul-stirring crescendos felt like a multi-denominational religious experience -- as did Elbow's whole performance.
-- Christopher Porter
Zuill Bailey and Simone Dinnerstein
Sunday night's concert at the National Gallery of Art was a completist's dream. Cellist Zuill Bailey and pianist Simone Dinnerstein performed all five of Beethoven's cello sonatas, including all of the repeats. Members of the audience tried to force an early intermission after the first hour, and many more left early. But those who remained for the final note, 2 1/2 hours later, did not complain.
Bailey and Dinnerstein recorded the first three sonatas in 2006, and this performance had all the hallmarks of a comfortable collaboration. Ensemble was taut even while rhythms were stretched and tempos were pushed to the edge, although both musicians tended to overemphasize the music's aggressive qualities, sometimes leaving little room to differentiate shape or color. Dinnerstein's figuration was clean and furious, but at points Bailey's tone was reduced to a near-pitchless rasp.