All words: Mary Beth McAndrews
All photos: Marie Formica
I have fallen in love and it is with Belle and Sebastian. The seven-piece band from Glasgow rocked Merriweather Post Pavilion on July 12 with their wistful, wonderful indie-pop music. Not even the day’s torrential downpour could dampen the spirits of the band or the crowd. I will admit I was worried the weather would ruin the atmosphere, but really, it did nothing but heighten it. Surrounded by rain-gear clad hipsters of all ages, we bonded out there on the muddy and misty lawn.
Yo La Tengo opened for Belle and Sebastian, and to be honest, I was disappointed. Their set started out great with the three musicians, Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley, and James McNew, setting a mellow mood for the gloomy evening. Then, things started getting a little weird. Kaplan started to swing his guitar around and didn’t really seem like he knew where he was. He slammed that whammy bar way too hard and even tried to play his guitar with this feet. I wasn’t really sure what was happening. This went on for the rest of their set. It was bizarre to say the least. It wasn’t bad necessarily, I mean they are a very talented trio, but it was just not what I was expecting.
So after that opening experience, I was feeling wary about Belle and Sebastian. Why you ask? I was cold, slightly damp, and Yo La Tengo set a weird mood. But, my anxieties were quelled as soon as they took the stage. If you ever thought Belle and Sebastian meant the group was simply two people named Belle and Sebastian, you were very wrong (don’t worry, I once thought that, too). Besides the usual seven musicians, they also brought on four additional violinists and a trumpeter. It was quite an ensemble but they worked perfectly together, with musicians playing multiple instruments, from the cello and harmonica to a synthesizer and a melodica.
They opened with the best-named song on this planet: “Judy is a Dick Slap.” And if their first song didn’t set the energy level, the next one sure did. During “I’m A Cuckoo,” Stuart Murdoch showcased his adorable white boy dancing talents as well using his beautiful Scottish singing voice to melt off everyone’s undergarments, and I mean everyone’s. His, and everyone else on stage’s, energy carried throughout the entire show, never faltering for a second.
Stuart was also very aware of his audience, knowing that there were several “under 12s” at the show. And he was very correct; this show attracted every kind of person, from college-aged hipster kids to middle-aged suburban parents and their kids. Stuart was also extremely interactive with the audience, repeatedly jumping off stage to walk through the pit. He even stood on the guardrail between the stage and the pit, holding the hands of fans (I’m honestly just impressed with how he kept himself from falling). At one point, during “Lord Anthony,” Stuart had a woman apply mascara on to his eyelashes as he sang the words, “If the kids could see you they would pass you right by/Blue mascara running over your eye.”
To make things even better, the band invited audience members onstage to dance during not one but two songs. It was possibly the cutest thing I have ever seen. So many people who had no idea how to dance but did not care, they were just happy to be on stage with freaking Belle and Sebastian. My friend remarked during this part of the show that Belle and Sebastian would do the soundtrack of a modern reboot of Charlie Brown. I have never heard a truer statement.
All in all, they were the most energetic, cheerful, audience-loving band I have ever seen perform live. They loved the music they were playing and they wanted everyone else to love it as well. Even better, they have a new album, The Third Eye Centre, out in August, full of unheard and rare tracks from the past decade. If you take nothing else from this review except that you should love Belle and Sebastian, then I have done my job.