“I think they’re still looking for the treasure in Manchester…” Belle and Sebastian, the fan-friendly Brit Award-winning not-so-superstars are in Edinburgh, playing the last of their three Easter gigs. The venue is the suitably eccentric Usher Hall, a classical amphitheatre with two tiers of raked seating above the standing area, and acoustics to put most venues to shame. The above quote concerns the treasure hunt the band have organised on the day of each gig, which luckily today was completed before the evening’s entertainment.
Speaking of which, isn’t it nice when a band exceeds your expectations? Those who have seen Belle and Sebastian in the past may recall shambolic, poorly amplified sets from a band who would rather not have been there. Not so tonight, as up to 13 players shimmy through 20 songs including a cover of Van Morrison‘s Brown-Eyed Girl, as requested by two nearly-weds. And they’re swopping instruments too, with at least three bassists and five guitar players, in a set naturally biased towards more recent tunes.
Todd Solondz’s misanthropic movie Storytelling is the source of Belle and Sebastian’s next release – they’ve done the soundtrack- and Wandering Alone is a Spanish tinged excerpt, the audience providing enthusiastic handclaps when required. Recent singles I’m Waking Up to Us and Legal Man are also give an airing, with Stuart Murdoch frolicking around the stage like it’s his front room. And it may as well be as he confesses that, “most of the audience is probably made up of members of our families”.
Whilst that’s something of an exaggeration, it’s probably why Belle and Sebastian don’t stand astride the music industry like the colossuses they are. They’re only interested in making music for people they like, and are quite happy to let the rest of the world go whistle. Now they’ve lived up to their recorded selves on the live stage, maybe it’ll be easier to bring people round to their charming way of thinking, and claw a little of the music industry back for the artists and the fans. One thing’s for sure: the only treasure worth having was on stage tonight.