Review by Megan Thompson
It was my first time ever visiting Sage Gateshead, and I couldn’t think of a more fitting act to perform in this beautiful, iconic venue than Belle and Sebastian. Their indie pop style mixed with a bit of folk rock and chamber pop suited this classy and vivacious building wonderfully. Every single lyric echoed magically around the room, and it was intimate enough so that everybody had a brilliant view and could join in with the audience participation, which included being invited up on stage to join them in singing their hit song The Boy with the Arab Strap; a definite highlight of the evening! I honestly felt like I was part of the band themselves, because their relationship with the audience was so genuine and down to earth. In between songs, some of the band’s eight members chatted along to the audience, making jokes about their travels and expressing their interests in their current cities, which only made the audience feel even more connected with this Glaswegian band, led by the fantastically talented Stuart Murdoch.
Support act and wonderfully talented American singer and guitarist Julien Baker preceded the show and his subtle tones and potent lyrics really set the scene for the night ahead!
Following the release of Belle and Sebastian’s latest album How to Solve Our Human Problems, the Scottish musicians proved that their palette is broader than ever and is continuously expanding, with the psychedelic, electro beats of Sweet Dew Lee contrasting with the more stripped back, mysterious flows of Poor Boy. They also still beautifully acknowledged their earlier days, paying homage to their roots with energy fuelled and nostalgic performances of older hits such as She’s Losing It and Expectations from their debut album Tigermilk (1996).
A slideshow showing snaps of the band exploring Newcastle and Gateshead on their current tour gave me such a feeling of warmth and sincerity, with Murdoch’s nod to the statue of Sir Bobby Robson, which stands outside St James Park, leading us into a their melancholic love ballad Piazza, New York Catcher. This song tells the tale of two young lovers exploring their own little dream world ”the sun upon the roof in winter will draw you out like a flower / I’ll meet you at the statue in an hour”. Other vibrant hits from the band’s sixth studio album Dear Catastrophe Waitress (2003) included I’m A Cuckoo and Stay Loose, which both had the audience on their feet dancing and singing along!
The mix of both old and new songs, which are all exceptionally unique and distinctive in their own way, provided a lovely balance between sentimentalism, abandoned youth, growth and maturity. The band finished their refreshingly optimistic and poignantly nostalgic set with an encore of songs suggested by the audience, which included There’s Too Much Love and I Want the World to Stop.
All in all, this was one of the most memorable and enjoyable concerts I have ever been to! I genuinely felt like I was part of this band’s magical journey and have never felt more at home at a music venue before. The full audience were encouraged to let loose and sing and dance as though we were in our own living rooms, and you could see everybody felt like a teenager again as they basked in a vibrant and bubbling atmosphere, feeling completely free and unrestricted. I would definitely recommend this strikingly talented and unique band to anybody, because whether you have heard of them or not, you will have a night filled with complete enjoyment, pleasure and freedom!