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  • Writer's pictureJulian Ramirez

Review: Belle & Sebastian Bring Some Love to the Salt Shed

It took me a second to realize, but Belle and Sebastian have been in the game for 28 years with a dozen albums under their belts and a hefty mount of singles that are as cherished as the songs on the records. With that sort of longevity and consistent quality, you know you're going to get a whirlwind of a show. Last weekend at the Salt Shed, Belle and Sebastian did that very thing, transporting everyone at the show to the spot when they first heard the band's beatific sounds for the very first time.

Before the main event could take over, fans were treated to a double bill of openers. Most shows on the tour only featured one of the openers, but this night got something a little special. First was Haley Heynderickx and her small band serenading the crowd with beautiful songs. Great tracks off of I Need to Start a Garden really took hold of the reverent audience keen on adding Heynderickx to their must listen lists.

The Weather Station  followed Heynderickx's gorgeous set with one of her own. Backed by a fuller band, Tamara Lindeman really took in the moment and delivered her songs with a conviction that was greatly appreciated. Sprinkling new songs in with some great favorites like "Tired To Tell You," "Robber," and "Parking Lot," really made for a well rounded and interesting set. Lindeman's lyrics are full of these little moments that grant you feeling a deeper understanding. Whether it's a love song relating herself to a bird ("Parking Lot") or lamenting the capitalist in all of us "Robber," Lindeman is just able to open up and find a morsel of truth we might have missed. During the latter portion of the set the Weather Station were joined by Macie Stewart, adding even more quality instrumentation to the incredible set.

Then it finally came time for Belle & Sebastian to take the stage and they did not disappoint. With a band that has been pretty stable the last decade (featuring Stuart Murdoch, Stevie Jackson, Sarah Martin, Chris Geddes, Richard Colburn, Bobby Kildea, and Dave McGowan), there was no doubt we'd be getting a well-oiled sound machine. Honestly, we got a little more than that as Belle and Sebastian's sincerity and talents were as great as the first time I saw them nearly 20 years ago.

Belle and Sebastian's set list was rife with favorites from all the eras of the band's masterful career. There were of course a few albums that weren't represented like their work associated with movies (Storytelling & Days of the Bagnold Summer), but for the most part we got an incredible look at the band's immense catalog. "If She Wants Me", a personal favorite of mine, details a break up and the insecurities that can plague the situation. It goes on into full sad boy lyricism while maintain the crux of the song and realistically so many of the band's songs "But life is good and 'It's always worth living/At least for a while'". At some-point in the set Murdoch leaned over to Jackson and remarked "Stevie do we suffer?" and was met with "It's terrible Stuart", once again jokingly underlining some aspects the songs' ethos.

But no matter how much suffering their songs may hold, they sound hopeful and glorious. Everyone at the Salt Shed was going with flow that was masterfully lead by Murdoch. "Your Covers Blown" is dancey and energetic, making everyone in the audience move to it's grooves and pleas to leave the scene and join something better. "Pizza New York Catcher" oozes with unbridled love despite its hints at things not working out (although Murdoch assured the crowd it does).

The Life Pursuit was my first Belle and Sebastian album (technically Push Barman to Open Old Wounds came out right before it but that was a collection of previous singles) after I found out the band and had voraciously listened to their previous catalog. The songs on that album mean a lot to me and the three that found themselves on the setlist really rang out with all the nostalgia gleaming. "Dress Up in You" was absolute prefect as Murdoch, with occasional harmonizing from Martin, laid out the friendship full of melancholy and resentment with pitch perfect accuracy. When the line "The men are surprised by the language/They act so discreet, they are hypocrites/So fuck them too" arrives so did the crowd eager opportunity to sing along. It's a moment of impassioned , even if it is coming from an exasperated situation.

One of the biggest highlights of the night came when the stage was filled with audience members invited to join the band and dance along to songs. There was so much excitement and joy beaming form those on and off stage, catapulting "If You Find Yourself Caught in Love" into the stratosphere. The song started off with its twinkling keys before bursting forth with it's undoubtedly pro-love, anti-war anthem that raised everyone spirits.

The encore ushered out the night with more favorites. "Fox in the Snow" a song that is so emblematic of the band that one couldn't help but sways away as the background display had little flakes gently snowing down. "This Is Just a Modern Rock Song" kept that vibe going, letting the atmosphere in the Salt Shed feel as light as a cloud before it was time to go. Here we were met with another The Life Pursuit track: "Another Sunny Day". The song full of love before it all goes away at its end felt fitting as all thing, including fantastic concerts, come to an end. While so many of Belle and Sebastian's song have these sad notes amidst the love and joyful instrumentation, it's important to remember the highlights. Thankfully this show was full of them.

All photos by Julian Ramirez



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