The Belle & Sabastian concert on Friday at the Riviera in Chicago: It was a near perfect thing and I’m happy.
This is the third time I’ve seen Belle & Sebastian live, and it was the best yet. But where to start?
Well, first things first. Honeyblood. I generally resent opening bands. Honeyblood, however, was fantastic. Kind of like a lush, layered version of Throwing Muses, served with a side of Scottish righteous indignance. I have been listening to Honeyblood incessantly on Spotify and I can’t wait to pick up the debut album.
I became aware of Belle & Sebastian when Dear Catastrophe Waitress came out. I loved that CD, but Belle & Sebastian didn’t seem so different from The Shins, The Decemberists, Death Cab for Cutie, The Killers, The Postal Service–it was a happy time for me, music-wise, the early 2000s, the height of indie pop.
That record led me to Belle & Sebastian’s extensive back catalogue: If You Are Feeling Sinister, The Boy With The Arab Strap, and Tiger Milk were just stuffed with beautiful songs that were personal and direct and riveting and kind. And uniquely so, Maybe that’s why the mostly-very-much-younger-than-me crowd went so nuts for my old loves: Century of Fakers, The Boy With The Arab Strap and Lazy Line Painter Jane. The on-stage participation towards the end of the concert was what made the show for me. The crowd brought those old songs alive again.
But I was there to hear what Stuart & friends are up to now. In Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance, they continue to share their quirky take on life and how to live it. Nobody’s Empire is the big anthem off that album. The Party Line is beautifully nostalgic, as is Enter Sylvia Plath. And, on first listen, I was totally obsessed with the song Perfect Couples which is a bit of satire about modern manners. Maybe that’s why I wasn’t sure if I really liked Perfect Couples or if I really didn’t like it. But the live version (with bongos!) was freakin’ great and accompanied by a video that really worked. There was quite a lot of film in this show, maybe prompted by Stuart’s foray into film-making with God Help the Girl, or the fact the people listen to music via YouTube more and more.
So, why only near perfect? Stuart seemed a bit stressed at the beginning and made a few comments probably referring an ill-considered op-ed from Pitchfork (srsly, p4k, cray-cray much?). Still, I hope the crowd made the band feel well-loved in Chicago. Because they are!