Belle & Sebastian @ Westminster Central Hall, 11 May 2015

Listening to Belle and Sebastian always seems a bit like it should be a party, not a wild drunken one, just a fun relaxing one with friends.   And tonight they took this party feel to a new level when, as they approached the climax of the gig, main man Stuart Murdock jumped from the stage and started helping people over the safety barrier to join him on stage. With some bands this would be as cliche as it can get, but tonight it seems just right.

From the outset tonight was always going to be a little different. For a start there was the venue itself, the Methodist Central Hall, based just up from Parliament Square and opposite Westminster Abbey. A little grand compared to most. For a moment we weren’t even sure we had the right place. And it’s clear it’s not a regular venue, I’m sure you could have just walked in and flashed anything resembling a ticket to the staff and they would have just waved you on through with a helpful smile.

The walk up the rather impressive staircase to the main hall was just as interesting. I can honestly say I’ve never passed a prayer room going to a gig before. In fact by this time I was worried for the band, I mean, this was a place of God, and Belle and Sebastian do a fine line in songs about masturbation. I was honestly concerned that they might be met by lightning bolts if they sung them. (spolier alert; they sung one and they didn’t get struck down.)

Then there was the actual main hall. My tickets said side view, and that was very accurate, the balcony was so large and the main hall so small, that about two thirds of the sides were in line with the stage. I dread to think what those at the very end of the balcony saw, probably the back of the drummers head.

So it was all very grand, but even with all that grandiose, as soon as the band hit the stage the party was on and all thoughts of how crazy this venue was were almost forgotten. Opening with stuff from the new album to grab the audience from the off, they soon begun a trawl through their 20 year history, a vast history when you consider the albums and EP’s that they have to call upon.

Between songs, Stuart Murdock kept up his usual line of banter, so fitting given the storytelling nature of his songs, a banter between him audience and colleagues on the stage with him. And as the party continued, he first took one excited girl from the audience to dance with on stage as he provided backing vocals to the song, and dance she did, almost outdoing Murdock’s efforts comppletely as she savoured her moment.

And then as they approached the climax of the evening, encouraged even more people to join them on stage, resulting in one the biggest cheers as a rather older than normal stage evader joined in, dancing his heart out around the band and getting the biggest cheer of the night. And as I said, it could be cliched, but it just wasn’t, it was natural, fun to watch as the band tried to play with people dancing with passion all around them. It was a party.

Belle and Sebastian are always going to be a band that some find a little twee, maybe just too comfortable, but for others, including me, I see a band that write damn good songs, know how to have a good time and know how to put a smile on your face when you hear them, and an even bigger smile when you see them do so live. It’s just one big party, and we are all invited.

And like any good party, tonight we even had a marriage propose… and like I would at any party when I see that happen, I do think, “Not here, please, it’s just so not needed.” But then that’s me being a miserable git again, I should just go with the party and enjoy shouldn’t I.


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