Thursday, December 09, 2010


If you haven’t seen Belle and Sebastian play live in their fifteen year career then maybe the first time should be with a full orchestra? That’s what I thought too when this went on sale and I grabbed some front stalls tickets. Come the first week in December though, I’m feeling rough. I’ve got those can’t-wait-for-the-end-of-the-year blues and suddenly seeing Belle and Sebastian with or without the London Contemporary Orchestra feels like a chore. The fact it was seated was what got me there on the night. That and a lift from ever-dependable Ms L. And how thankful am I now?

I’m not a great fan of the Apollo – it’s a bit of a soulless, sterile experience without surprise or warmth. First surprise then on taking our seats – front, centre, just a few rows back – was suddenly how the cavernous Apollo started to feel a bit more intimate.

When the eight-piece Belle and Sebastian took to the stage they were all polite waves and nods but generally shy and workman-like into the first song. Third song ‘Like Dylan In The Movies’ was played just by the band, moving gracefully from gentle acoustic opening into beautiful cello, violin and trumpet accompaniment – what need for a full orchestra? Soon we were shown what the orchestra could add. The London Contemporary Orchestra didn’t play on all songs, and for some they were quite discreet, unshowy, but for others the orchestra players brought dramatic intros, swells, dips and grandeur - particularly making an early impression on ‘I Waking Up To Us’ and ‘Lord Anthony’.

However this for me was not what made the evening. It was that Belle and Sebastian were having fun. Most of the band remained fairly unexpressive whilst playing but from the moment Stuart Murdoch removed his red jacket (underneath tight white T-shirt with ‘Ealing Studios’ crest since you asked) the whole event warmed up. And kept getting warmer. Murdoch was relaxed whether sitting singing on the forestage or dancing on the spot and wiggling his hips, whether choosing audience members (“you need to have rhythm”) to come on stage and dances or even running up and down the aisles. I know – all a bit rock ‘n’ roll. Or at least rock ‘n’ roll on Belle and Sebastian terms. There was never any danger or edginess but instead just a great, fun, uplifting experience. And when the orchestra abandoned their instruments and filled the forestage to dance along to final encore ‘Me And The Major’ you could sense they were genuinely caught up in the joy of the moment too. The problem is now I am spoiled. I think I can only see Belle and Sebastian again at close proximity and with an orchestra.

The Set List:

If You’re Feeling Sinister
Write about Love
Like Dylan In The Movies
I’m Not Living In The Real World
I’m Waking Up To Us
Lord Anthony
I Want The World To Stop
Sukie In The Graveyard
Fox In The Snow
I Fought In A War
(I Believe In) Travellin’ Light
I Can See Your Future
Dear Catastrophe Waitress
Dirty Dream #2
The Boy With The Arab Strap
If You Find Yourself Caught In Love
Judy and the Dream of Horses
Sleep The Clock Around
I’m A Cuckoo
Get Me Away From Here I’m Dying
Me And The Major

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