Belle & Sebastian


Belle and Sebastian have always had a devoted, loyal fanbase and they’ve turned up in their droves tonight. It’s so packed and steamy in the Albert Hall, we overhear people next to us mention that some fans can’t even get into the room, and are almost on the stairs outside, luckily we manage to squeeze through and find a spot pretty close to the front. Doing a few shows to promote new song ‘Sister Buddha’, and seemingly just because they can, Belle and Sebastian are in a relaxed mood.

Starting with ‘I Fought In A War’ from 2000’s album Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant and then into the upbeat sounds of ‘I’m A Cuckoo’ from 2003’s Dear Catastrophe Waitress, frontman Stuart Murdoch does his Northern Soul style dancing around the stage, in between playing guitar, and it’s clear from the start that we’re going to get a complete mix of songs from over their twenty-plus year career, with only the aforementioned ‘Sister Buddha’ as the newbie.

Murdoch announces that they’ll be playing a few songs from an album they released almost twenty years ago, which at the time they felt they didn’t really do justice to, so tonight we get several tunes rarely heard in a B & S live set from that underrated album Fold Your Arms Child, You Walk Like A Peasant. There’s the stomping rhythms and melodies of ‘The Wrong Girl’ with guitarist Stevie Jackson on lead vocals, and the beautiful ‘Waiting For The Moon To Rise’ with violinist Sarah Martin taking over lead vocal duties. Soon though, it’s as if the setlist is abandoned as they turn to the audience for requests and seem willing to give any song a go, even if they haven’t exactly rehearsed it for years! So after a band huddle in the middle of the stage, we get an attempt at ‘Your Cover’s Blown’ from the 2004 Books EP, which although they only manage a verse or so, it’s enough to keep the many die-hard fans happy.

There’s a string section with an additional trumpeter who add to the already lush sounds of songs like the brilliant ‘Step Into My Office Baby’ with its bouncy rhythms and subtle undertones. Murdoch wears a t-shirt emblazoned with “One Hit Wonder” in huge letters. A self-deprecating choice of outfit, as judging by how many requests the crowd generate, and how many of us sing along with almost every song, they’re clearly much more than one hit wonders to the assembled masses in here tonight. A touch of self-deprecation and humility is also what has helped to define Belle and Sebastian – they are one of the few bands out there who seem to know how to really connect with their fans, not only through the amount of requests taken, but also there’s the invitation for fans to get up and dance on stage during ‘The Boy With The Arab Strap’, and Murdoch’s in between song chats with the crowd – asking us how many of us were there last time, joking with someone in the crowd that he liked their new haircut. It’s sometimes the little things, the spontaneous moments in a gig between the band and the audience which makes it feel special, like it’s one big club to which we all belong.

We also get a delicate yet brilliant version of Buzzcocks’ ‘Ever Fallen In Love’, and the evergreen beauty of the tune that is ‘Judy And Her Dream Of Horses’. Ending with crowd pleasing classics ‘Me And The Major’ from seminal debut album If You’re Feeling Sinister with Jackson’s bluesy harmonica solo adding to the melodic genius of that tune, plus the lovelorn ‘Funny Little Frog’, Belle and Sebastian have proved that when it comes to melodic bliss and audience interaction, there’s no one else around who even comes close. A brilliant set by the Scottish indie legends.

Belle & Sebastian: Official | Facebook | Twitter

From the early days of creating handmade zines, in a DIY paper and glue style, interviewing bands around town, then pestering Piccadilly Records to sell them, to writing for various independent mags such as Chimp and Ablaze, writing about the music I love is still a great passion. After testing the music industry waters in London with stints at various labels, being back in my hometown again, writing about this city’s vibrant music scene is as exciting as ever. All time favourite bands include Sonic Youth, Nick Cave, Patti Smith although anything from electro to folk via blues and pysch rock will also do nicely too. A great album, is simply a great album, regardless of whatever musical cage you put it in.