By Jonathan Taylor
The Albert Hall Manchester
Belle and Sebastian take to the stage on a perfect summer’s evening in the beautiful surroundings of The Albert Hall in Manchester. The performance is just one of three dates on English soil, before the band cross the Atlantic to embark on an extensive tour of North America before returning to Europe for the festival circuit.
The band take to the stage and are greeted with celebratory cheers from a sold out capacity crowd and open their set with the powerful tale, ‘I Fought a War’, which is followed by cheers of appreciation, as they launch into fan favourite ‘I’m a Cuckoo’, taken from their sixth album release ‘Dear Catastrophe Waitress’. This is followed by the second ever airing of Belle and Sebastian’s newly released single ‘Sister Buddha’ which still has the paint drying on this beautifully nostalgic offering and it gives a glimpse of their soundtrack to coming-of-age comedy 'Days of the Bagnold Summer', directed by Simon Bird which is yet to have a release date confirmed. ‘Summer of Wasting’ from the bands iconic album ‘The Boy with the Arab Strap’ continues the set.
Though the summer, weltering temperatures in the Albert Hall were too much for some in the audience, this certainly did not deter the majority of hardy Northern souls from being transported on a musical journey back and forth through the decades of the bands career.
The hour and 45 minute set continued with a celebration of hits and classic album tracks that included ‘Wrapped Up in Books’, ‘Poor Boy’, ‘Nice Day for a Sulk’, ‘Waiting for the Moon to Rise’, ‘There Too much Love’, ‘Step into My Office Baby’, album title track ‘The Boy with the Arab Strap’ and ‘Woman’s Realm’. The first part of the set finishes with ‘Judy and The Dream of Horses’ taken from their second studio album ‘If You Feeling Sinister’.
On returning to the stage band are met with an enthusiastic wave of appreciation from a sweat soaked audience and they close the evening with ‘Me and the Major’ and the joyous and uplifting anthem ‘Funny Little Frog’.
The evening was a journey of wonderful story telling and beautiful nostalgia and with 11 critically acclaimed albums under their belt demonstrates Belle and Sebastian’s ability to maintain levels of imagination and productivity to keep the creative wheel turning. The bands line up has changed in parts over the years, with members coming and going, and there has been prolonged periods of absence between albums at times. This chopping and changing of members has in no way hindered the consistency of the music produced by the band. It has merely benefited from new perspectives and fresh directions of creativity. This combined with their loyal fan base it is clear to see why Belle and Sebastian are one of the most cherished and celebrated UK acts of recent decades.