Live Music Reviews

Belle and Sebastian @ Usher Hall, Edinburgh

1 April 2002

“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 Eastergigs. The venue is the suitably eccentric Usher Hall, a classicalamphitheatre with two tiers of raked seating above the standingarea, and acoustics to put most venues to shame. The abovequote concerns the treasure hunt the band have organised on theday of each gig, which luckily today was completed before theevening’s entertainment.

Speaking of which, isn’t it nice when a band exceeds yourexpectations? Those who have seen Belle and Sebastian in thepast may recall shambolic, poorly amplified sets from a band whowould rather not have been there. Not so tonight, as up to thirteenplayers shimmy through twenty songs including a cover of VanMorrison‘s Brown-Eyed Girl, as requested by two nearlyweds.And they’re swopping instruments too, with at least three bassistsand five guitar players, in a set naturally biased towards morerecent tunes.

Todd Solondz’s misanthropic movie Storytelling is the source ofBelle and Sebastian’s next release – they’ve done the soundtrack- and ‘Wandering Alone’ is a Spanish tinged excerpt, the audienceproviding enthusiastic handclaps when required. Recent singlesI’m Waking Up to Us and Legal Man are also give an airing, withStuart Murdoch frolicking around the stage like it’s his front room.And it may as well be as he confesses that, “most of the audienceis probably made up of members of our families”.

Whilst that’s something of an exaggeration, it’s probably why Belleand Sebastian don’t stand astride the music industry like thecolossuses they are. They’re only interested in making music forpeople they like, and are quite happy to let the rest of the world gowhistle. Now they’ve lived up to their recorded selves on the livestage, maybe it’ll be easier to bring people round to their charmingway of thinking, and claw a little of the music industry back for theartists and the fans. One thing’s for sure: the only treasure worthhaving was on stage tonight.

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