Since 1996, Scottish indie-pop band Belle & Sebastian has grown from a modest success to what some critics call the next classic voice in rock music. Frequently lauded as a modern-day version of The Smiths, Belle & Sebastian have released eight full-length albums as well as dozens of other EPs, compilations, film scores, DVDs and songbooks.
Belle & Sebastian played a show in Los Angeles on Sunday night to a sold-out crowd at the newly remodeled Hollywood Palladium to promote their new album, Belle & Sebastian Write About Love.
Currently composed of seven members and fronted by lead vocalist Stuart Murdoch, Belle & Sebastian continue to refine their distinct sound of jubilant chord progressions with wistful harmonizing on Write About Love. And although often criticized for a lack of musical variety, the arrival and enthusiastic reception of the album proves that sometimes more of the same means more of the same brilliance.
The packed-to-the-walls audience at the concert consisted of fans old and young dancing to the tunes of the unreleased album while simultaneously chanting the lyrics to old favorites from as far back as the Tigermilk era in the ’90s.
After the low-fi collaboration Jenny & Johnny opened to excited applause, Belle & Sebastian took the stage and started off with the eponymous single, “Write About Love.” Though not present at the concert, English actress Carey Mulligan is featured on the funky album version with signature melancholic lyrics such as I hate my job, I’m working way too much / (Every day I’m stuck in an office) / At one o’clock, I take my lunch up on the roof / The city’s right below, I’ll ride upon a friend / He’s intellectual and he’s hot, but he understands.
Vocalist Sarah Martin filled in for Mulligan, while also contributing parts on the flute, keyboard, fiddle and percussion.
The concert shifted into more classical territory as the band knocked out the well-known singles from its lengthy oeuvre, such as “Step Into My Office, Baby,” “I’m A Cuckoo” and “Piazza, New York Catcher” — all to overwhelming applause.
Since Write About Love will not officially be released until Oct. 12, Murdoch addressed the audience each time the band was about to play an unfamiliar song so everyone could learn how to actively participate. A particular favorite from the show off the new album was “I Want the World to Stop,” featuring the lead vocals of guitarist Stevie Jackson that re-introduced the crisp and progressive sound most commonly associated with the album Dear Catastrophe Waitress. Jenny Lewis of Jenny & Johnny made her second appearance on stage, contributing vocals to a special song request from one of the audience members.
An hour into the set, Murdoch brought up a handful of eager fans in the audience to dance on stage for “Sukie in the Graveyard” and “The Boy with the Arab Strap,” knighting each one with personalized Arab straps, devices to maintain an erection, at the very end, and then sang a version of “Happy Birthday” to two of the fans. In between songs, Murdoch humbly thanked the audience for its support and shared his personal anecdotes about traffic tickets, a strange visit to Las Vegas and the cultural differences between the audiences in the United States and Asia, which he saw while touring the world for the group’s new album.
The concert wrapped up perfectly with an extended version of “Sleep the Clock Around,” an older and underrated classic, and then the band came back for an encore with “Me and the Major.”
Although most of the audience members dressed and evoked the personas of modest librarians, there was not a single person in the entire building who was not dancing maniacally with cheesy, lovesick grins spread across his face.
Though Belle & Sebastian have produced more albums already than most successful mainstream superstars, there is no way their ever-expanding fan base will diminish in the near future. The band is set to play a special concert at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery today
With Write About Love appearing to be another instant classic, it’s safe to say that Belle & Sebastian will be around for a long time.