Review: Belle and Sebastian Union Chapel, London

The septet of Belle and Sebastian perform fragile songs about the shy and the heartbroken, led by Stuart Murdoch's waiving voice, which is like Nick Drake's angel sigh but eschews suicidal poetry in favour of a mixture of wit and urban surrealism, all wrapped in string and brass arrangements.

But this isn't the sound of the crushing epics of the Manic Street Preachers, or the wall-of-sound pop of Phil Spector, it's the ramshackle chic of street urchins, stumbling on to instruments and delighting in the sweet racket they make. And it's a fantastic brew; because while they exude the air of lucky amateurs it's a concoction that only the stony-hearted could resist.

They make a fist of the first song, pushing their lackadaisical habits to the brink of disaster, but they recover and stumble brilliantly from one breathless song to the next. Each one unfurling like a funny and melancholic Alan Bennett Play For Today compressed into five minutes. They will never rock the house but the songs from their new EP, Lazy Line Painter Jane, shine with all the drama and clumsy emotion of your first kiss.

During one particularly lengthy tune-up, the guitarist calls for requests and performs an impromptu solo version of Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone", but even this is brilliant, with Dylan's original vitriol replaced with head-shaking regret.

At one point, as everyone is enjoying the spectacle of Belle and Sebastian in a church, a lone, crazed dancer suddenly and without reason starts flailing around like he's at a techno club and we all shuffle with embarrassment. Because that's how fans of Belle and Sebastian suffer life, with shuffling embarrassment, stolen looks, long lonely sighs and scribbled poetry. The audience look as if they've been hibernating since the Smiths split up a decade ago and there's even - horror of horrors - grown men in T-shirts and cardigan ensembles again. For one glorious night, the arrogant anthemic indie bands are thankfully a world away as people in a chapel in Islington gleefully worship at the altar of shyness and coyness. Amen.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Alloysious Massaquoi, 'G' Hastings and Kayus Bankole of Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
musicThe surprise winners of the Mercury Prize – and a very brief acceptance speech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
News
video
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Marketing Account Manager / Client Liaison Manager

£25 - 32k DOE: Guru Careers: A digital-savvy Marketing Account Manager / Clien...

Business Development Manager / Sales Executive

£23-30k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking bright Business Developmen...

Senior Developer/Development Lead - C# ASP.NET. SQL

Circa £55,000: Ashdown Group: Lead Developer requirement - C#, ASP.NET, SQL - ...

DFA Ad Operations Manager

38,000: Sphere Digital Recruitment: My client is an agency that handles the me...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain