Leagues – Dublin’s Event Guide – Manchester, Town Hall, 27th and 28th December 1997
29th December 1997
Live Review

All Three Shows

It’s been a while since I travelled further than a spin on the DART to catch a band, but then again, it’s been a while since I’ve heard a band this damn good. Even grimey Manchester can’t put a downer on the sort of romance B&S ooze at every pore. And only B&S could come up with the idea of playing three shows in two days inside the ornate splendour of the city’s town hall. We’re literally gobsmacked walking around this remarkable building, windows embellished with intricately stained glass, archaic stair-cases winding off in every direction, every door hiding a mystery and centuries of history. And inside one of the larger rooms seven or eight musicians swop instruments spread out over two stages, one opposite the other and a stacked PA in the middle.

This is Belle and Sebastian’s world for two days.

The first show is tentative, impeded by the troublesome sound which is yet to marry itself to the Town Hall’s vexatious acoustics. But once Stuart Murdoch’s fragile voice comes upon us, a hushed reverance inhabits the air as brushed drums and deft traces of moog and hammond begin to fill the room. B&S have over three albums worth of great songs so despite their faltering poise it’s still an enjoyable evening, and we’re enchanted by the unique surrounds. The following day’s matinee performance is approaching sublime. The band are hungover (keyboardist Chris hides a bucket beneath his pile of instruments in case of emergencies) and play with particular delicacy. Stuart performs a tender ‘Fox In The Snow’ on piano and we swoon appropriately.

The final show is aptly rousing. B&S have mastered the discortant echo of the venue and every instrument (cello, ethnic percussion, drums, organs, piano, trumpet, violin, guitars etc) now cruises in harmony. The audience let loose a little too, and indulge in a spot of hootin’ and hollerin’. Tonight’s set is for the most aprt a variation on the previous two. The much favoured ‘The State I Am In’ is aired in its more languid ‘Tigermilk’ arrangement, (trainspotter info) as opposed to the snappier ‘Dog On Wheels’version (alas,nothing from Dog On Wheels makes it this weekend – next time please) but it satiates our need to hear one of the finest pop songs released this year. Several more from ‘Tigermilk’ are played and some new material due for release in the next five or six months. The quality control leaves us dizzy and by the end of the night we’ve discarded all those Nick Drake and Love comparisons and fallen well and truly in love with our unlikely new pop saviours from Glasgow.

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