When did Belle and Sebastian become so brilliant live?
As a child the phrase "If the mountains won't come to Mohammed, then Mohammed must go to the mountains" was commonly heard but its true meaning or definition never really registered. Coming just a week after B&S pulled out of their T in the Park performance (due to Hollywood Bowl performance, well if it's good enough for The Beatles or Monty Python), the chance to catch up with the band in Catalonia was too good to pass up. Finally, after all these years, some sense was made of an old proverb, who says you are every too old to learn new tricks?
For many years the band carved out a great indie niche, they were everyone's favourite Glasgow twee kids and if their live shows were a bit shambolic, well that was part of their endearing charm and their records were always enjoyable.
Recently, Belle and Sebastian have upped their game considerably, and you may wish to whisper this part, Stuart Murdoch has become an extraordinary front-man. Holding a main stage audience in the palm of his hand whilst seemingly having a great time as well was not an image imaginable a good few years back. Whatever preconceptions may exist over their live show, get over them and check out a band that is having a ball.
With new album 'The Life Pursuit' receiving a fair airing with a few old favourites thrown in for good measure, it's also a measure of the depth of the band's song writing. The early work of the band obviously has won over loads of fans and inevitably, this has led to a slight backlash of their newer material, which abound with choruses and poppy interludes.
Perhaps over the years this writer could be accused of music snobbery and disliking a band after they make a break for the big time but the same feeling doesn't hold for B&S. Tracks like 'I'm A Cuckoo' or 'Funny Little Frog' are tremendous songs in their own right and even if they don't hold the same mystique as 'Stars of Track and Field' or 'Dog On Wheels', they put a smile on your face.
'Funny Little Frog' is a tremendous track and quite a slow burner, upon release it was hard to see why this was the lead single but almost like the frog immersed in ever increasingly hot water, it wasn't until it was too late that the beauty of the track was realised. Even in the show, the song was mutely received but the by the close of the track, the crowd were clapping and bouncing away at the song of misplaced love.
With all band members taking their chance to shine, including live-member and multi instrumentalist Sarah (not Sarah Martin, a full time accomplished member) who never seemed to stop all night popping up behind every instrument available. However, the night belonged to Stuart Murdoch. From inviting girls up on stage to dance to 'Sukie In The Graveyard' to dancing on the thin barrier at the front stage and spreading panic that he might break his neck, everything he did was tremendous in connecting to the crowd. Given that his recent diary admission (it's published on-line, here at Room Thirteen we don't condone reading other people's diaries unless offered the chance) stated that he doesn't like watching bands at festivals, his own performance was entirely captivating and very watch able. The security staff may not have been impressed with his antics but most people were.
'Your Cover's Blown' has been an understated classic of recent years for the band, containing as many changes as 'Paranoid Android.' The chorus was pared down allowing the melodies to shine and when the heavy drum section kicks off, there is almost a feel of New Wave of British Heavy metal to it, and such is the ferocity and impact.
With darkness creeping around the amphitheatre, the strobe lighting worked wonderfully well and the entire set gelled into a tremendous show which really was above and beyond what was hoped for from B&S on the main stage.