Belle and Sebastian kicked off their UK tour earlier this month, and even had to add a date in London due to a very high demand. The gig was preceded by a short movie called Glasgow 1980, which showed the redevelopment of the city in the 70s, until actress Tamzin Merchant - who is featured on the new album's artwork - appeared for the first time on the big screen to introduce Belle and Sebastian. The 6 piece band fronted by Stuart Murdoch was accompanied by 7 other musicians, playing additional violins, trumpet, cello and keyboards.
They started the gig with Nobody's Empire - the opener of their new album Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance - followed by I'm A Cuckoo; as they did for almost all the shows of the tour. The rest of the set list was quite unique to that performance, there were a few tunes that they play unconditionally every night such as Perfect Couples, although they still tried to change the order of the songs. Each time they wandered around the stage to grab their instrument for the upcoming song was an excitement, as nobody knew what was coming up next.
It's rare for a band to perform a completely different set every night, especially when there are so many instruments, arrangements as well as musicians (including the ones who weren't part of the band but who still had to know all the songs). And it was thrilling because some fans were hoping for a certain song to be played, and either started wriggling about when they heard the first notes, or had the opportunity to request it as an encore if it hadn't been played! Yes, the band is so skilful they let the audience decide whatever they want to hear after the planned set, as they are apt to play anything! The only problem is for the fans to be heard amongst the screams and shouts…
The singer was in a very good shape, hopping around the stage from the beginning to the end, all excited as the other members "let" him play the bass, calling himself the "6th best bass player" of the band! He also shared an extract of the 1978 comedy short film called The Waterloo Bridge Handicap, which caused a general laughter amongst the crowd before they started playing Sukie In The Graveyard.
Overall, the atmosphere was rather light and joyful, and after introducing the audience to 6 diiferent songs from their new album, Murdoch jumped into the crowd pulling all the people he could onto the massive stage of Westminster's Methodist Central Hall. It was not long before fans started joining from everywhere, including the balconies. All these people dancing together and singing along The Boy With The Arab Strap created a moment of honest beauty and humanity. Stuart Murdoch finished the song with a few fellows snapping there fingers around him, and huming "seems like yesterday, I wrote this song"…
The band carried on with an ultimate new track, The Party line; a rather funky/disco song which they performed with the few remaining fans dancing on stage. They closed their set with the nostalgic My Wandering Days Are Over, before inviting the crowd to their after-show party and proceeding to the encore requests. Due to an inaudible amount of demands, they played only one request which was Funny Little Frog, followed by the very cheerful Judy And The Dream Of Horses, which's false ending led the clapping to accompany the song until the end.
Almost two decades after their first album, Belle and Sebastian are still as close to their audience, giving all they have on stage, and most of all, remaining technically unique and continuously refreshing.