Tag Archives: Belle and Sebastian

Belle and Sebastian – ‘We Were Beautiful’ [Matador]

New Belle and Sebastian single ‘We Were Beautiful’ conducts a tranquil essence, conveying sparse synths and a 90s air – provoking an indispensable nostalgia.

Commencing with a D&B loop, swamp bass line and a stock-sounding synth that genuinely flatters the punctual vocal, majestically embracing the motion.

The satisfying pedal-steel effect adds some class to the already unblemished track – the chorus picks-up nicely, adding brass and guitar amongst other instrumentation, developing into a powerful and extremely catchy, future crowd pleaser.

The track falls back down for the second verse to allow distance and space – the lyrical content on the break after the second chorus appears a little tacky and out-of-touch, however when the last chorus hits, you remember why you were still listening.

‘We Were Beautiful’ channels a humble and credible flow, moving piece by piece with style and grace.

Words: John Houston

TRNSMT at Glasgow Green, 7/7/17

After a few years of dwindling interest in T in the Park, Geoff Ellis’s new festival, the three-day TRNSMT, is a fresh attempt at proving the demand for top-tier festivals in Scotland.

Amid claims that T in the Park had lost its emphasis on music among a weekend of drinking and partying, TRNSMT is catering to a slightly older audience, kicking off with the likes of London Grammar, Belle and Sebastian, and headliners Radiohead.

With 35,000 in attendance and three stages, and an additional Smirnoff and Mixmag stage hosting DJs, there’s a healthy audience early in the day for even the smallest venue, the Jack Daniels-sponsored Jack Rocks tent.

It means Bang Bang Romeo play to a deservingly cramped tent, Anastasia Walker’s vocals soulfully attempting to blow the roof off.

Herein lies an immediate success for TRNSMT and the bands playing there: its relatively compact nature makes it easy to stumble upon an act that ends up hooking you for their entire set, and Bang Bang Romeo benefit from a combination of this and a captivating display of talent that leaves people outside the tent gathering round to listen even if it’s impossible to squeeze in.

Over on the mainstage, Everything Everything is equally rewarded with a prompt and keen audience, receptive to their rhythmic electronic indie.

Immediately it’s noticeable how loud they are, their beats and Jonathan Higgs’s voice carry comfortably across the wind.

It’s a charming and endearing performance, especially the crescendo of ‘No Reptiles’ as the bizarre “it’s alright to feel like a fat child in a pushchair, old enough to run” line hits harder and harder with each passing repetition.

Back in the Jack Rocks tent, Moonlight Zoo keep the place bustling with their upbeat guitar-driven set.

They have a knack for an infectious melody, and even songs about the end of the world sound encouraging and optimistic.

Over on the King Tut’s stage, Be Charlotte is staking her claim as the most impressive act of the day.

Main stage bands will have bigger and brighter productions, but Charlotte’s authenticity shines through, becoming fully enraptured by her songs as she sways and dances to her music.

The moment a song is done a smirk appears, as if the preceding three minutes of music just had to get out of her and she has no idea what quite came over her.

Her genuine passion for her craft and what she’s creating is infectious, and out of all the acts on secondary stages, she’s the one clearly headed for great things.

Rag’n’Bone Man is a big dude with a bigger voice, and what he occasionally lacks in tunes, he makes up for in conjuring the feeling of a crowd-sized group hug.

He’s indebted to the blues with his powerful vocal delivery, but there’s a communal receptiveness to what he’s preaching, bringing people together in the crowd to dance and welcome his songs of love and emotion like a musical sermon.

The sun breaks during London Grammar’s set, half-way through the a capella intro to ‘Rooting For You’, and it genuinely does feel like a religious experience.

Hannah Reid’s voice will always be the focal point of London Grammar’s music, but in the live setting they employ an appropriately moody light show and beat-heavy remixes that keep their sets from feeling stale.

This works in more intimate venues, but it’s difficult to make the main stage feel cozy, so the light show is lost among the daylight, and Reid is left to do most of the work with her voice.

As long as Reid is on fine form there will always be something to take from a London Grammar experience, but the nature of their music is such that it works better in the dark.

Belle and Sebastian, on the other hand, just want to make people dance.

Stuart Murdoch takes this quite literally as he grabs some people from the front row to dance on stage during ‘The Boy With the Arab Strap’.

Murdoch is a charming host, saying hello to the people in the high flats watching from a distance, explaining how he wrote sixteen verses for ‘Judy and the Dream of Horses’ as he walked through Glasgow Green and kept four of them, and how he heard the Orange Walk got banned from the People’s Palace for starting a ‘fracas’ because the bar sold limeade.

It’s all very playful and light as air, but there’s something heartwarming about Belle and Sebastian playing to their strengths and being rewarded by having thousands of people dancing in the park in their hometown, to which Murdoch would have apologized for getting in the way of the people hanging up their laundry.

Radiohead is neither playful nor light as air, instead opting for an uncompromising and characteristic display of what’s made them so adored since the 90s.

The 20th anniversary celebrations of OK Computer continue as ‘Let Down’ and ‘Lucky’ open a career-spanning two-and-a-half-hour set, becoming ever more visually assaulting as the sun sets, especially during the glitchy ‘Idioteque’ and pulsing blues and reds of ‘Paranoid Android’.

Despite their cemented success, they are not the perfect festival band since anything remotely resembling a hit is recorded twenty or so years ago, making some attendees impatient for hits that never come (no ‘Creep’ tonight).

A Moon Shaped Pool songs like ‘Ful Stop’ come to life in the live environment, and history has been kind to The King of Limbs as the complexity of ‘Bloom’ and conventional funkiness of ‘Lotus Flower’ fit in well.

It’s a relief for many when ‘No Surprises’ and ‘Karma Police’ show up, two hours in, as it’s finally a chance to sing along, and the former’s “bring down the government, they don’t, they don’t speak for us” receives a rousing cheer.

Radiohead inspire impressive levels of devotion, and with this being their first Scottish show in ten years, it’s a rewarding and lengthy set, and even though they are confirmed festival headliners, they are still nowhere near as accessible as Kasabian and Biffy Clyro are on the second and third nights, showing the risks TRNSMT is willing to take to revive the music festival experience in Scotland.

Confirmed to return next year, TRNSMT appears to be a success, with all signs point to the opening day as having run smoothly with no arrests, and a focus on music that appeals to a wider demographic than what T in the Park was aiming for in its later years.

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Words: Scott Wilson
Photos: Cameron Brisbane / Ryan Buchanan / Ryan Johnston

Primavera Sound 2015 (Friday)

My Friday begins where it seems I spent half my weekend, down at the Pitchfork stage EX HEX are lavishing us with their attitude filled, yet truly enthralling pop sound; yeah I missed The Pastels, and I’m gutted but Mary Timony’s addictive vocals and sharp punk melodies more than make up for not seeing our home town darlings.

Next up is the first of two Earth Song treks (see previous days for a kind of explanation) this weekend to the Heineken stage and it’s more than worth it as not only does my trip, via the press arena (also an Earth Song away), mean I bump in to last night’s star of the festival Kelela, but Patti Smith & Band are set to make things a bit more special on stage too.

Night two begins for me with Patti Smith, performing seminal album Horses and the most noticeable thing is the size of the crowd, perhaps the largest for any artist I see across the weekend.

Playing Primavera as the first night of a European tour, Patti and her band tear through an awesome set; her enthusiasm and dialogue with the audience is excellent, encouraging free speech and personal betterment.

Finishing with ‘Gloria’, the crowd is left near euphoric by one of the best sets all weekend.

Making a mad dash to catch the last song of Tobias Jesso Jr. back at Pitchfork, I’m left slightly underwhelmed after Patti’s powerful performance, not that Jesso is bad, just his timid numbers, that are delightful on record, manage to get lost in a mass of sound overflow and chattering audience; maybe one to see in front of his own audience.

After missing The Pastels and knowing it was likely I would miss The Vaselines tomorrow, the need to see a Glasgow band was left to Belle and Sebastian, and while it’s not quite a patch on the full orchestra show they pulled off in Glasgow a few weeks before, it’s still a hell of a lot of fun and chance to let loose and sing-along as Stuart Murdoch prances about in that stupid hat.

The band do well to avoid cramming the set with new songs and keep a nice level mix that is topped off by an airing of ‘Electronic Renaissance’ and a pals questionable dance moves (“this is a good one”).

One of my biggest regrets of 2014 was not catching Perfume Genius when he played the CCA in Glasgow (one of us did).

‘Too Bright’ became one of my most listened albums of last year, so I was thrilled to be able to finally catch him live.

If you’re not familiar, Perfume Genius is the stage name for Mike Hadreas, a Seattle-based musician, whose material tends to go from poignant, dark ballads to all out camp power-pop bangs and tonight is no different.

Songs such as ‘Grid’, ‘Too Bright’ and ‘Fool’ sound particularly excellent and closer ‘Queen’ has the whole audience moving, one way or another.

Based on recent tours and supports, Perfume Genius continues to climb and based on this performance, it’s not hard to see why.

Shabazz Palaces at Nice N Sleazy was probably the best gig I went to the whole of last year, so I was thrilled to be able to see them again.

Playing a considerably shorter set (they played Sleazy’s for over two hours last year!) they don’t waste any time in getting right down to business, and they sound incredible, probably the best I heard across the weekend and their set is as slick and punctuated as I would expect; another stellar performance and a great way to keep the night going.

The stand out performer of Friday night came as a surprise, at least to myself; I had previously only heard Pharmakon on record and while her extreme sounding, multi textured recordings are a true audible experience they prepare you little for how gobsmackingly excellent she is live.

Margaret Chardiet is a real presence, she thrusts around the stage with an array of instruments, the main one appears to be a sheet of metal hooked up to various sound devices, and compels everyone into a state of awe; all the harshness of the records is still there, but the sheer spectacle of it all is enough to let that fade.

Pharmakon could have been as intimidating as Sunn O))) were the night before, instead she allows her immersive sound to totally engage everyone, giving no rest bite and no chance of anyone leaving before she is done, which in all fairness isn’t very long, but any more intensity of this level could push a few over the edge.

The crowd for Run The Jewels on the Pitchfork stage is so large that we have to fight our way through just to get remotely close to the front.

Opening with the massive ‘Oh My Darling Don’t Cry’ after a huge entrance to Queen’s ‘We Are The Champions’, RTJ completely knock it out of the park and the audience, for lack of a better phrase, completely lose their shit.

Playing material from both albums, Killer Mike and El-P look like they’re having the time of their lives, as does the buzzing Barcelona crowd.

My adventures also take me to a full on dance and rap along to RTJ, the duo seem to have caught the world’s attention, finally and rightfully, giving the Barcelona crowd that cherished bit of hip-hop brilliant that no one else quite manages this year.

A peek at the Ray-Ban stage has me seeing Death From Above 1979 for the second time since their reformation, and the duo are just as dull as the first time, so I leave before the end of their set once again, only this time not across the road to Broadcast and How To Dress Well, but round the corner to Pitchfork and Death From Above signed The Juan MacLean, whose edgy disco tinged infectious, yet experimental dance whips up a storm of dancing bodies as we enter the small hours of the morning.

At the age I am now, it’s always nice to be surprised when you check out an artist for the first time and they completely blow you away, which is exactly what happened to me with Jon Hopkins.

On the recommendation of a friend I checked out his set and was completely and utterly hooked, supported by background visuals and on-stage performers, Hopkins’ set is powerful, moving and just straight up genius; the best I saw all weekend and someone I certainly hope to catch again soon.

I manage to hang around til pretty much the end tonight, until the clock is near hitting six, and as the haze draws over my night the sheer throw back fun of RATATAT cannot be ignored, I hadn’t been aware of anything the duo had done in years, but it all sounds fresh and fun, getting the Ray-Ban stage in the party mood with tracks like classic ‘WildCat’.

Everything is a little to far gone and a bit beyond keeping up the dancing for Objekt at the Bowers & Wilkins Sound System stage or indeed Dixon’s deep house back at the Ray-Ban, but for those who may have indulged at little more than myself the night seems to more than end on an infectious high.

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Saturday

Belle and Sebastian with the Scottish Festival Orchestra, Lower Dens at The Hydro, 22/5/15

It’s a tough one to contemplate; Belle and Sebastian playing at The Hydro, why? Yeah they’ll comfortably bring a crowd to their hometown’s flashy new arena, but these guys aren’t an arena band; maybe three nights (or more) at the Barras doesn’t squeeze into their tour schedule, add to that the fact that they got the Scottish Festival Orchestra in tow and things start to fall into place.

Opening up proceedings are extremely likeable Baltimore dream pop merchants Lower Dens, however from my seat up in the rafters the band are hardly visible, the screens are yet to be turned on and it’s difficult to make out what the act is wearing never mind gage their reactions.

Still, they sound impressive, despite the atmosphere void I’m surrounded by – there no-one as of yet sat anywhere near me, as tracks like recent album, Escape From Evil, highlight ‘Ondine’ soar right through The Hydro in a dream-like haze.

The band are clearly chuffed to be on this tour, and know just how special this show is to the headliners, still from my vantage point it’s very difficult to judge the vibe down on the floor, they’re certainly worth giving attention to; although they deliver a much more ethereally beautiful experience and not the plaster-a-smile-on-your-face whimsical pop of tonight’s headliners, Lowers Dens output has been up there with anything Belle and Sebastian have produced in the last ten years, certainly one to take in in a smaller space if you fancy a lovely wee sway along.

Tonight everyone is waiting for one thing, Belle and Sebastian are the homecoming heroes and it appears a lot has been put into tonight’s show.

A purposefully low budget video is aired before they take the stage, where someone (we’re not quite sure who) dressed and impersonating Billy Connolly introduces a tongue in cheek history of the band, describing how the band got their name from fighting Sebastian Coe in The Belle pub, introducing us to the legendary Camber Sands only infront of Cambuslang Industrial Estate, describing the band’s lengthy prison time and showing us an array of the roughest pubs in Glasgow introduced by the line “here’s the wee happy café where the band used to drink tea and write pop songs… Happy days!”

Charming stuff.

Then the orchestra takes the stage, before the band, it was always a worry that use of the Scottish Festival Orchestra would mean a very new album heavy set, however we’re pleasantly surprised as the set goes on to feature more tracks from 2003’s Dear Catastrophe Waitress than it does this year’s, nice but not mind blowing, Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance.

It is indeed a new one, opening single from the album, ‘Nobody’s Empire’, which opens the set and Stuart Murdoch, sans stupid wee hat (it’ll make an appearance later), leads proceedings with his proclaimed most personal song he’s ever written complete with glorious full orchestral flourish.

Again at this point it’s difficult to judge the atmosphere on the floor, as all that is visible is a sea of heads, but some visible bopping along can be made out as the band break into classic ‘I’m A Cuckoo’ and the ever flamboyant Murdoch prances around with a cheeky grin plastered to his face.

“It’s Friday night, we’re going to have a bit of a party!” Murdoch announces with glee as they break into a disco-ed up newbie ‘The Party Line’; it’s fun stuff but that new album filled potential is still hanging in your mind at the third track of the set.

Still, the full orchestral arrangements sound magnificent in The Hydro, but the venue does lack in atmosphere, certainly from the seating area, although I have enjoyed some very different, yet equally outstanding shows from the arena floor.

Murdoch uses a launcher to fire t-shirt’s into the crowd early in the set, which he reveals to be Ride t-shirt, who are playing the Barras tonight; “they wait 20 years and they pick tonight” quips Murdoch, possibly stressing his own frustration or that of many of the crowd at not being able to see both shows.

A particularly sunny sound ‘I Want The World To Stop’ leads us in to the Stevie Jackson led newbie ‘Perfect Couples’, before that silly wee hat Murdoch also seems to sport makes an appearance about 45-minutes in as a wonderful soaring arrangement of ‘Lord Antony’ is performed complete with dramatic school fight performance from a team of dancers, as Murdoch makes full use of the walkway provided.

Indeed Belle and Sebastian are at their best when those ever charming pop songs click into place with, the complexity, yet quirky sing-along-ability that Murdoch’s songwriting possesses, ‘If You’re Feeling Sinister’ is a perfect example of this and goes down a treat with an extra wee bump added on from the engrossing orchestral arrangements that list this performance to Hydro levels of hugeness.

There more dramatic dancers for ‘Dear Catastrophe Waitress’ and ‘If You Get Yourself Caught In Love’ as Murdoch interacts with the front row, before the room noticeable take it up a notch for probably the acts most famous track, ‘The Boy With The Arab Strap’.

It’s at this point that a collection of fans are invited onto the stage to dance, culminating in Murdoch leading them in a finger clicking skip up the walkway in some bizarre Westside Story effort.

Huge balloons drop from the ceiling and it looks like a real party atmosphere down there as Murdoch boots them back into the crowd revealing the experience to be “really therapeutic”, before a particular huge sounding version of ‘Sleep Around The Clock’ sets everyone dancing again.

An encore of two more darling oldies, a straight up version of ‘Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying’ and full orchestra take on ‘La Pastie De La Bourgueiese’, round the evening off in wonderfully, putting to bed any reservations and tying of what is surely Belle and Sebastian’s biggest show ever with all the glory it should have.

More Photos

Words: Iain Dawson
Photos: Kyle Burgess

Commonwealth Games Opening Party with Belle and Sebastian, Les Johnson at Kelvingrove Bandstand, 23/7/14

With temperatures in Glasgow reaching heights akin to the more exotic regions of the Commonwealth, Kelvingrove Park’s previously derelict bandstand makes an ideal venue for an evening of scorching summer pop.

Getting tickets to see Belle and Sebastian at this intimate event takes the art of luck, nerves of steel and monk like reflexes as with tickets gone in minutes many fans where left disappointed.

Beginning to write music aged 46, the now 53 year old Les Johnson and his ragtag rockabilly outfit including members of The Shivering Sheiks, contribute a metamorphosing taste of Glaswegian Americana.

Opening the show, Johnson’s bellowing voice encapsulates nostalgia for early rock ‘n’ roll and Southern style, spiritual music while remaining unmistakably Scottish.

Booming double bass, mandolin, the strains of fiddle and harmonies create a sound from which you can almost hear the crackling of a Sun Records 78; songs ‘I’m Gonna Blame you Marvin’ and ‘15 Hands’ are worth looking out for, while bittersweet ballads recalling the memories of childhood seem to conjure the ghosts of the family stage, finally restored to its former glory.

After a screening of films about the bandstand and the previous games in Deli, Belle and Sebastian begin there set.

Entering the stage to ‘I Belong to Glasgow’ the band (who could put together a medium sized sports team) wear maroon tracksuits in tribute of the sporting occasion.

A stylophone driven instrumental eases the band into ’I’m a Cuckoo’ then suitably ‘Another Sunny Day’.

Stewart Murdoch’s promise to trawl the archive’s and play a set of songs written “within a three mile radius of the park” receives a rapturous applause.

‘Stars of Track and Field’ is the first song the band play from there Jeepster days and doesn’t differ from the sublime ‘If You’re Feeling Sinister’, with the exception of the hushed mumbling of lyrics by two thousand fans.

There isn’t much deviation at all from the recordings with the notable exception of ’Piazza New York Catcher’, the stripped back shanty is replaced by a country style arrangement, including a harmonica part played by Stevie Jackson, this at first awkward mashing of genres turns out to be a surprise highlight of a set with few surprises.

The standard ‘Boy with the Arab Strap’ clap along happens predictably on cue though it’s clear none of the tangle of fans onstage are complaining, before ‘Judy and the Dream of Horses’ triumphantly close this home coming set.

Alas no matter how hard the notoriously nasty Belle and Sebastian fans boo a flummoxed Vic Galloway, there can be no encore, instead we are over to a live link of Parkhead.

Are Belle and Sebastian a more apt representation of Glasgow than dancing Tea Cakes? Perhaps, but for those here this show will go down as much more important than Barroman’s pissing on being Scottish over to the east.

More photos

Words: Peter Johnstone
Photos: Stewart Fullerton