The Null Device
I went to the Belle & Sebastian show at the Palais Theatre tonight. They tore the roof off the place. Seriously.
There were 12 musicians on stage: the band plus additional musicians playing strings; they had a wide array of instruments, including 3 guitars (sometimes at once), a Hammond organ and a vibraphone/xylophone. Stuart Murdoch cut a dapper figure in his white T-shirt and vintage hat (think the sort ska rudeboys wear), danced animatedly and exchanged banter with the audience. Oh, and they still can't throw; I counted two missed tambourine catches in one song. But they can get a place moving; when the opening bars of The Boy With The Arab Strap sounded, people got out of their seats and into the aisles. The atmosphere was charged; it was, I imagine, like one of those black gospel church services in the US South.
They opened with Fuck This Shit (off the Storytelling score) and played for a bit over one and a half hours, playing most of the favourites; much of their most recent album, of course (the version of Stay Loose was well hard!), quite a few older tracks, and a slightly shambolic Rolling Stones cover. (Some wag in the audience suggested that they play Khe Sanh; Stuart didn't know it, but reckoned it sounded violent.) They changed the lyrics a bit in places (the version of If You Find Yourself Caught In Love exhorted the lovelorn to go into the desert and visit Ayers' Rock), and did a rather funky segue, with lots of wah guitar, from The Wrong Girl to Legal Man. At various stages, they invited audience members onto the stage: first, a group of fans with a banner requesting I Don't Love Anyone got to dance on stage with the banner as the band played the song, and, during the encore, a lot of people got on, including one girl from the audience who sung the female parts from Lazy Line Painter Jane, and did a bang-up job of them; she knew all the words and sounded really good in the part. I bet she'll get many singing gigs from now on.
It was easily the best gig I've seen all year.