Thursday, 16 June 2016

Belle and Sebastian at 20. Glasgow University Union, Glasgow

Belle and Sebastian, gig review. Glasgow University Union, Glasgow. 15 June 2015

"Belle and Sebastian were the product of botched capitalism. It would be nice to say they were the children of socialism, but it would be a fib."

Marking their 20th year as a band Belle and Sebastian are soon to play a couple of nights in London's Albert Hall. Before heading off for that they played three consecutive nights in the more intimate/ hot and sweaty setting of the Glasgow University Union debating chamber. Nominally this was part of the Westend Festival, which has been going for almost the same amount of time. Whilst the festival seems to be running out of steam a bit these days, retreading the same events year after year and being unable to fund their popular parade, Belle and Sebastian seem to be going from strength to strength. Touring with their latest album last year, Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance, took them to bigger venues than they have ever played before, such as their recent Glasgow gig at the SSE Hydro. However they have always been at their best in less formal, more intimate occasions, whether at events like the Save The Children fundraiser that they helped organise last year or in their earlier gigs in the QMU and Maryhill Central Halls.

GUU bar for the gig 
The GUU is a lovely old building, but when I was at university it was also home to some lovely, old fashioned, reactionary students. I was always carrying a wee QMU diary in my student days at Glasgow Uni but tonight, I suspect like much of the band, enjoyed being able to take a short walk from my home to the venue. They were clearly at ease here, standing on stage a wee stroll from where most of their songs were written and early recordings made. Has there ever been a more westend band than Belle and Sebastian? So connected to this local area are they that the local tourist authority has been publicising a Belle and Sebastian walking tour around these nearby streets.

Always slightly dorky (like their audience) they have always just been themselves, and found success that way. Over the three nights the setlists lent heavily on the earlier albums and they played 43 different tracks over the three nights. On stage for almost two hours on the Wednesday night that I saw them, they ticked off so many of my old favourites that it felt greedy wishing I'd heard Fox In The Snow or If You're Feeling Sinister the night before, or Like Dylan In The Movies or The Boy Done Wrong Again on the Monday night. However starting with The Stars of Track and Field they
had me on side from the beginning. "You only did it so that you could wear, your terry underwear" - one of my favourite lyrics in their whole lyrically pleasing back catalogue.

Belle and Sebastian at the GUU
Other stand out tracks included a feisty rendition of Electronic Renaissance and, from The Life Pursuit, Another Sunny Day (mainly for the line "We're playing for our lives, the referee gives us fuck all"). During The Boy With The Arab Strap a group of fans brought up on stage to dance appeared to be on the verge of collapse in their over-exuberance. It did leave me wondering what the collective noun for their devoted fans is? An embrace of fans? A flounce of Belle and Sebastian fans? I don't know.

Stuart Murdoch invites the crowd to come up and dance
Getting hotter, sweatier and better as the show went on we were treated to Monica Queen joining them on stage to reprise her vocals from the excellent Lazy Line Painter Jane. One solitary track from their recent album popped up in the encore before we were sent home with I'm a Cuckoo ringing in our ears. A belter of a performance, a lovely warm and fuzzy evening and miles better to see them like this than in the cavernous Hydro. Haste ye back. 

Belle and Sebastian Live review gig review Glasgow GUU

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