REVIEW: Paolo Nutini, Elbow - Bristol Sounds, Harbourside

As the festival returns we sampled two nights of the UK’s finest musicians 

Words & Images: Libby Smith

Stepping into my first ever Bristol Sounds Festival, camera in hand, I was taken aback by the vibrant energy coming from a spot that is usually rather quiet, apart from the regular skaters who meet up there. Lloyd’s Amphitheatre had magically been turned into a place where all kinds of people had gathered to dance and sing together to the likes of Paolo Nutini and Elbow.

Bristol Sounds

Image: Libby Smith @myfavouritedays


The first act that I had the pleasure of photographing was the wonderful Brooke Combe, who was supporting Paolo on this sunny evening. Combes was another Scottish-Born singer that graced the stage with her powerful voice and impressive guitar skills. Her soulful lyrics created an incredible atmosphere from the beginning, and certainly left everyone wanting more while patiently waiting for the headliner.

Brooke Combe

Image: Libby Smith @myfavouritedays

As the sun gradually set over the harbourside, people took the opportunity to eat, drink and be merry through the vast options of stalls. I treated myself to a kebab and as I began to wander back to the stage, I could see the wave of excited faces as people filled up the amphitheatre. 

This was Paolo’s first set in Bristol since 2014, and it was easy to see that he was sorely missed. With each instrument that was brought on stage by staff, a brief burst of claps and shouts followed, hoping it was Paolo waltzing on with his guitar, so as you can imagine, the entire audience roared with celebration when they finally saw Nutini greeting them with the microphone in his hand.

Paolo Nitini

Image: Libby Smith @myfavouritedays

Playing both old and new songs, there wasn’t a time you couldn’t hear the crowd singing along, and now it became clear to me why this show sold out. Every single person became united through Paolo’s well known, raspy and soulful voice, even encouraging him and his band back on stage for one last song, and it was definitely a night to be remembered by all. 

After experiencing so much talent on what was the second night of Bristol Sounds, I was more than excited about what the next night would bring, and whether I’d enjoy Jesca Hoop, The Magic Numbers, and Elbow as much as I did Paolo and Coombes.


Although the weather was slipping by tonight, the vibes were shining through the crowd, perhaps even brighter than the previous night. Whilst Paolo brought a relaxed, heartfelt atmosphere, tonight the crowd were more pumped up for some energetic hits from Elbow, such as ‘Grounds for Divorce‘.

Jesca Hoop

Image: Libby Smith @myfavouritedays

The first support act, Jesca Hoop, didn’t fail to make a spectacular start to the evening, with her angelic voice sending everyone into a trance for the entirety of her set. Similar to Coombes, she wowed the crowd with her combination of soulful singing and guitar playing, also getting an eruption of cheers as she called us Bristolians awesome for the BLM protests and throwing Colston into the river! Her incredible talent set the scene for the next acts, and like others, I couldn’t draw myself away.

The Magic Numbers shortly followed, hyping up the crowd through the bad weather with the folk rock hits that many recognised. Although I hadn’t heard of them before, their catchy lyrics and rock flavours made them a great addition to the festival and a fitting support act for the highly anticipated Elbow.

Magic Numbers

Image: Libby Smith @myfavouritedays

As the Magic Numbers closed, I could once again see the amphitheatre starting to fill with beaming smiles from those young and old, and I made my way to the photography pit to eagerly wait for Elbow. 

The lights went off, and then they shot back on again in a deep red, shouts could be heard all around the venue as lead vocalist Guy Garvey made his way to the stage with the rest of the band.

Their powerful stage presence and the way they interacted with the crowd made for an inspiring closing set. They played all of their top songs, including the slower ballads as well as the punchy, angry anthems that had everyone jumping, including me.


Image: Libby Smith @myfavouritedays

Although Elbow had not played in Bristol since the Bristol Sounds in 2019, they certainly left their mark in everyone’s memories. The very next day, Elbow also played at Glastonbury festival, so seeing them at Bristol Sounds made the festival blues not so bad. 

As Elbow played their last song and everyone began to leave, I couldn’t help but leave smiling and feeling fulfilled by both nights, and as I looked around, I could see everyone around me smiling too. I was so grateful to be a part of these nights as both a person in the crowd and a photographer, and although it was my first Bristol Sounds, I don’t think it’ll be my last.

Bristol Sounds

Image: Libby Smith @myfavouritedays