When I heard Belle and Sebastian’s first EP, as an opinionated teenager, I dismissed it as sounding too much like Love’s Forever Changes. I was similarly sniffy about subsequent releases declaring them as too ‘Fey’ and ‘Arch’ and I refused to reconsider my position. I was just too cool for Belle and Sebastian and too cool for school (although my mum did still insist I attend).
In subsequent years, my attitude softened slightly and I ended up owning two or three of their albums. I particularly enjoyed 2006’s Dear Catastrophe Waitress but it’s fair to say that I remain a pretty casual fan. Seeing them live at last years TRNSMT festival last year didn’t really change that.
Belle and Sebastian take the stage to a rapturous applause. Things get off to a promising start with Nobody’s Empire, a track from the band’s 2015 album, Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, an unashamedly poppy and upbeat song that translates really well to a live setting. They follow this up with the great I’m a Cuckoo. You’ve got to love a song that name checks Thin Lizzy, The Sunday Gang and musically pays homage to Bob Dylan’s Positively Fourth Street all in three and a half minutes of indie pop brilliance.
The strongest performance of the night, at least for me, is the slinky Perfect Couples, on which guitarist Stevie Jackson takes lead vocal duties. It’s an infectious old skool tune: funky, fun and poppy, and the band clearly have a ball channelling the spirit of Tom Tom Club. Stay Loose is another killer tune that sports a retro vibe, plus it also features the best lead guitar lines of the night.
When you are at a Belle and Sebastian gig, and you hear The Boy With The Arab Strap strike up, you know it’s time for a bit of crowd participation. Sure enough, Murdoch soon starts pulling people up on the stage to dance. For one guy it’s like he’s won the lottery, he’s giving it really big licks with his dance moves. When he repeatedly grabs one of the microphones though, he’s crossed a line and it’s time for him to join us back in the audience. Nae luck son!
As the final notes of second encore Sleep Around The Clock ring out I hot foot it to the coat check to beat the rush. I’m definitely leaving the Concert Hall a much bigger Belle and Sebastian fan than I entered. I mean, they’re no Teenage Fanclub (although their bass player, Dave McGowan does play with them) but they’re pretty damn good, especially live.
For more on the band and their forthcoming live gigs click here.