22 June 2016 at The Royal Albert Hall, London
Firstly, I should probably say that this isn’t really a gig review in the same way I would usually write about a concert I’ve been to. The whole night for me was something of an experience in itself so rather than writing a clinical style review of what songs were played in what order etc, I thought I would write this about how the night made me feel. I do hope you don’t mind.
I have liked Belle and Sebastian since they released their album If You’re Feeling Sinister back in 1996. My friend Kevin told me to have a listen, I did and I loved it. The album introduced me to their distinctive sound and I slowly built my collection of albums over the years. My best friend Jo is also a massive fan and it has been lovely to share the beauty of these records with her and discuss their merits (whilst singly along loudly obviously).
I never had the chance to see them perform live though and it was something I knew I was missing out on. When the announcement was made for the twentieth anniversary tour for both Tiger Milk and If You’re Feeling Sinister I didn’t pay too much attention as the venue was London and I’m in Nottingham. It later transpired that I was due to be in London attending a meeting at the same time so it then became a possibility. But would I get a ticket at this late stage, just weeks before the gig?
The answer was yes. When I looked online there were 2, yes just 2 seats left in the stalls and one of them was the second row back with a great view. I pondered for a bit as I would be on my own and decided that as an alternative to sitting in a Premier Inn (other hotels are available) watching bad television this was a damn good choice. So I booked it. And was then filled with excitement during the intervening weeks about seeing a wonderful band at The Albert Hall of all places.
When the day finally arrived I walked towards the building looking up in wonder at this marvellous venue. I hadn’t been there for a very long time and was hoping to be early enough to get some photos of the grand interior. It’s very beautiful inside and makes you feel very classy being surrounded by lush red velvet and plenty of posh boxes overlooking the stage. My view was brilliant, I was just behind the mixing desk and watched with interest the sound checking and lighting ‘stuff’ that went on throughout the course of the evening.
The support act for the night was Teleman who I’d heard good things about so was looking forward to hearing their set. And I can confirm the good things were correct. Their half hour set was really enjoyable and I am very tempted to go and see them on their headline tour later this year. They certainly warmed the crowd up for the main event.
There was a short reprieve while the stage was made ready and the place filled up with lots of excited folks who were there for a great time. During the break the screen above the stage showed stories of why fans were attached to certain B&S songs and it was really lovely to read how the band and their music had affected so many people in so many ways.
Finally it was time. The screen showed the cover of Tiger Milk and the ensemble took to the stage and started with The State I Am In. And it was marvellous. The band worked their way through the album we were there to celebrate and the crowd sang along with them enjoying every second. We were then treated to a variety of tracks from their extensive back catalogue including what were some “deep cuts” according to Stuart Murdoch as we were hardcore fans! The chap a few seats away from me sang along to one of the songs cursing himself because he couldn’t remember the title, but he knew ALL of the words. It was amazing.
Speaking of the brilliant Stuart Murdoch, I can honestly say, I don’t think I have ever seen a performer dance as much as he did during a show. When he wasn’t dancing on the stage, he was climbing onto the partition around the stalls to walk along it whilst singing and finally he crowd surfed back to the stage, still singing. I think he was having as much fun as we were. It was infectious. He also made a very pertinent speech to the audience by dropping to his knees during Step Into My Office, Baby and spoke about the importance of voting in the EU Referendum the following day. It was met with a massive round of applause and rightly so.
He also stated that they weren’t going to play “that song” before launching into “that song” and inviting members of the audience onto the stage to dance along. It was absolutely fantastic to be part of and I’m pleased to see that someone managed to capture it on video so I’m sharing it below so you can all see how electric the atmosphere was.
With a set comprising of 22 songs, the night ended after an encore of I’m A Cuckoo and The Party Line. I can safely say that we didn’t want it to end. It was one of the best concerts I have ever been to and I am so glad that my work life interfered with my social life for once and presented me with the opportunity to experience such an evening.
As a celebration of twenty years of two great albums, I don’t think Belle and Sebastian could have done it better.
You can find Belle and Sebastian’s website here