Belle and Sebastian, Roundhouse, London
Friday 03 June 2011
For a band that has quietly ruled the indie waves for the last 15 years, the sound of fans gathering for a Belle and Sebastian gig is surprisingly loud. Given that tonight's gig is the second of three headline gigs, their first in London for five years, though, it's no wonder that the crowd is barely keeping it down to a dull roar. The Glasgow seven-piece are here to play songs from their recently released eighth studio album, Belle and Sebastian Write About Love, as well as their back catalogue and the audience is excited in a thoroughly well-mannered way.
Young, old, hip, not so much – the band's followers don't conform to any one stereotype although an unofficial uniform is there: girls sport cross-body bags or cotton shoppers and chaps have unthreatening facial hair and a flash of ankle. Many are still wearing their jackets when Stuart Murdoch and company take to the stage.
After Murdoch greets us with "Well, London, it's been a while. We'll ease you in gently", the opening bars of "The State I'm In" cause shrieks of delight which, as the house lights change from red to green for "Dirty Dream Number Two", are a constant backdrop to the band's sweetly subversive soundtrack. Murdoch bounces away, and explains that he is feeling nostalgic tonight and "in an indie mood". So, it seems, is the crowd, as "Write About Love" kicks in. Although it doesn't boast Carey Mulligan to provide vocals in person it does have a lovely swirling lighting effect on the back of the stage that makes up for the lack of Oscar nominees.
As the band play through a well-judged mix of old and new tracks ("I'm Not Living in the Real World", "If You're Feeling Sinister", "She's Losing It", "I Want the World to Stop" – by far the stand-out track from Write About Love) there is never a feeling that we have to take the medicine of new tunes before enjoying a spoonful of familiar sugar.
The lighting is epic, the sound impressive and the band, with larky, sarky and affectionate asides to the room, seem as thrilled to be here as the crowd. "The Boy with the Arab Strap" sees any remaining jackets shed, as the temperature and the noise increase. By the time the encore, "Me and the Major", comes, one girl is screaming "I LOVE YOU, STUART!" while the rest are baying for more. The quiet kings of indie leave the stage with a bang, rather than a simper.
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