On Sunday evening, as the shadows stretched long over the Piece Hall walls, Guy Garvey told the gathered thousands that they were stood at the centre of the world.
Gravelling softly through every verse and chorus, his poetry bounced from every colonnade with resonance, delivering the realisation that those present were watching something truly special. Elbow, Guy Garvey’s Mercury-prize-winning Elbow, were serenading Halifax.
The band play in stadiums all over the world, but such was the poignancy of the evening, Halifax could have been New York. It could have been Paris or Rome. As ‘One Day like This’ sounded over the sell-out crowd, to those present, it was the only place on the planet.
For so many locals, this was because years of work had lead up to this point. It was the coming together of craft ale bars, Orielles, Shoreditch comparisons, £17m renovations, Father John Misty, record shops, Vision 2024, independent music venues and so much more. This weekend, all of a sudden, the town had a noticeable swagger to it, more pronounced and fierce than before.
Halifax is a town going places, they say, and big things are on their way. You don’t get much bigger than Elbow. Halifax, with the Piece Hall at its centre, is now pressed firmly into the cultural map. This, surely, was one of the town’s finest-ever moments.
They came from far and wide, not just for Elbow, but for Sleeper, Reverend and the Makers, The Levellers, Villagers, Mac DeMarco and of course Embrace. For four days, Halifax - that lesser-known pit-stop on the train line between Leeds and Manchester - attracted music lovers from far further afield; Scotland, Denmark, America. All this as the artists bounced up and down the motorway from Glastonbury weekend.
Any issues facing the town have not been blown away with a few blasts of an amp and the nay-sayers are unlikely to quieten because of a series of rock concerts. Will memories of Guy Garvey fill empty shop units and reinvigorate tired streets? No, but it helps. These were the moments the Piece Hall was rebooted for; selling out hotels, packing out bars and injecting a fresh dose of ambition into West Yorkshire’s stretching, yawning giant.
There was something beautifully communal about the atmosphere in the Piece Hall amphitheatre last night and the only disappointment was that it had to end. From Thursday to Sunday, the sound of guitar music exhaled far across the sun-baked Calder Valley, dragging with it an optimism, a sense of pride and a feel good factor all-too-rarely expressed in this part of the world.
Now we wait for word of a similar feast of excitement next summer. One day like this a year would surely see us right.