Belle and Sebastian at The Anthem

IMG_5795Belle and Sebastian’s current tour is a movable feast, where substantially different set lists are conjured each night, whole sections of musicians are added and subtracted, and the fun being had on stage is certainly contagious to those in the crowd.

The setup at the Anthem Saturday for the group was an odd one: general admission, but with seats. That provided comfort while awaiting the show, but once the band was onstage, everyone was on their feet for the duration.

With its roots in a kind of literary folk rock, the Glaswegian band has since broadened its sound to include the big beats of the dance floor.

The wide-ranging Pride weekend set Saturday, though, surprisingly kept away from the latest things, taking advantage of a five-piece string section — and a hired trumpet — to delve into much older things. Indeed, it was the 15 year old Dear Catastrophe Waitress that was the source of most of the night’s material, from the title track to “Lord Anthony” to the suddenly improper-sounding  “Step Into My Office, Baby.”

Band co-founder Stuart Murdoch is the main surviving voice of Belle and Sebastian, utterly precise and distinctive in his accented vocals. He seemed especially glad to be playing a relaxed show, where he strolled gingerly, balanced on the security fence between stage and crowd, counting on front row members to steady him; invited a few dozen fans on stage to dance along to “The Boy with the Arab Strap” and “The Party Line,” and told everyone to enjoy themselves inside, isolated from any of the various problems outside.

That was easy to see from the bunch of dancers, who ranged in age from the very young to their moms and dads, and while most were happy to bounce around under the lights, some couldn’t resist constantly taking selfies (ok, ok, we get it; you got on stage).

The invitation to join the band onstage was part of Belle and Sebastian’s appeal, reflecting stories of regular people in their detailed songs, and more often than not projecting pictures of everyday people behind them amid other projected patterns and geometric designs.

Murdoch switched from guitar to harpsichord to tambourine at will, as other members switched things up a bit too. Everybody seemed to have a melodica at the ready.

Guitarist Stevie Jackson, all buttoned up in suit and tie, got to sing a couple of his songs, but Sarah Martin was left to solo on just one. She was dealing with a sore throat and taking all kinds of liquids and medications in between taking up violin, flute, keyboards and melodica. Her harmonies were a big help all night though.

Murdoch borrowed her flute to use as a conductor’s baton at one point to guide the hired violinists, who ended up being used much less than they could have.

The hired trumpet was caught a bit off guard when the band’s encores were chosen after a group huddle, “Judy and the Dream of Horses” and “Sleep the Clock Around.”

After 24 years and nine albums or so, they’ve got a deep catalog to play and from the energy shown, a healthy future ahead as well.

Belle and Sebastian got a simpatico opener from the Montreal band Men I Trust. Led by the retiring and beguiling Emmanuelle Proulx, the modest quartet blends indie confessionals with lo-fi dance aspirations in an especially effective mix. There is a drum beat, but the drums are muffled by a towel covering it. With keyboards and bass, it’s Proulx’s guitar providing extra shimmery texture to the dream pop goodness.

 

The setlist for Belle and Sebastian Saturday was: 

  • “Dog on Wheels”
  • “Dirty Dream Number Two”
  • “We Were Beautiful”
  • “The Model”
  • “I Want the World to Stop”
  • “Sweet Dew Lee”
  • “Sukie in the Graveyard”
  • “Lord Anthony”
  • “(I Believe in) Travelin’ Light”
  • “The Same Star”
  • “Step Into My Office, Baby”
  • “If You Find Yourself Caught in Love”
  • “Dear Catastrophe Waitress”
  • “The Boy with the Arab Strap”
  • “The Party Line”
  • “Get Me Away from Here, I’m Dying”
  • “Judy and the Dream of Horses”
  • “Sleep the Clock Around”

 

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