Belle & Sebastian
Fillmore Miami Beach
Sunday, September 28, 2014
Better Than: Staying home, to paraphrase everyone's favorite Glaswegian sextet, and playing with yourself.
"We were here! Where were yooou?"
Last night, the five guys and a gal of Belle & Sebastian finally graced a stage in the Sunshine State after a nearly two-decade wait for "our first gig anywhere in Florida!"
Of course, though, the Scottish outfit's impish bandleader Stuart Murdoch attempted to shirk responsibility for this 18-year delay by playfully passing off the blame to Miami's notoriously tardy music fans.
But shockingly, the Fillmore Miami Beach crowd was actually quite prompt. So Murdoch's argument floundered, and he bashfully shrugged, almost snickering, "Oh well, we've only been going for nearly 20 years!"
Yet the friendly fan ribbing was not over. "I see some of you were a lot younger when you first listened to Belle & Sebastian," he teased. "But then again, some of you weren't, because I notice there's quite a lot of kids here.
"See," Murdoch laughed, now taking a shot at his band and himself, "we're still hip!"
Last night in Miami was also, as the Belle & Sebastian bandleader noted, "the first gig of our new tour."
And like many B&S shows of the recent past, it began with the lovely instrumental, "Judy Is a Dick Slap," followed by a string of fan favorites, from "I'm a Cuckoo" through "Expectations," "If She Wants Me," and "Funny Little Frog."
But then, broaching the exciting subject of a new album, Murdoch announced a fine surprise, with a flourish of sarcasm. "We have been writing some songs recently," he revealed to cheers. "So we're going to play a couple for you just now. And hopefully, it doesn't ruin your evening."
The first of the new tunes off early-2015 release Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance was "Allie," a feisty cut that Murdoch described as the story of a young girl who "sits in her bedroom and considers being violent."
And next, it was "Perfect Couples," jokingly summed up by the songwriter, B&S guitarist Stevie Jackson, as being "all about perfect couples," before adding, "See, back in Glasgow, all those who are seen as being perfect couples are breaking up. Not so perfect, eh?"
Unlike the rest of Belle & Sebastian's set, these songs were accompanied by elaborate video pieces, starring a solo dancer ("Allie") and an entire troupe ("Perfect Couples"), which betrayed a burgeoning and appropriately twee fascination with choreography -- perhaps revelatory of future band projects, especially considering Mr. Murdoch's recent foray into movie musicals with God Help the Girl.
Now, in addition to those two new ditties, the night was full of other revelations ... For instance, were you aware that Stuart Murdoch is a devout Christian?
Perhaps so. But following last night's rendition of 1996's "If You're Feeling Sinister" (which features the infamous closing couplets, "But if you are feeling sinister/Go off and see a minister/Chances are you'll probably feel better/If you stayed and played with yourself"), the Belle & Sebastian bandleader confirmed the firmness of his faith -- and the frequency of his visits to places of worship.
"These days, I feel conflicted when I sing that song," he explained. "I know where I was at the time when I wrote it. But I did go to church today. And I go to church a lot. Like, a lot.
"Mind you, when we're on tour," he said, transitioning into joke mode, "the church I always end up going to is like the right-on, groovy church that's around the corner, [the Miami Beach Community Church.]
"Was anybody there this morning?" he cracked. "Did I miss you?"
Another of the night's revelations ... Did you know that Stuart Murdoch is married to "a Florida girl"?
It's true. Chatting with the crowd, he gave away that personal tidbit while telling the amusing tale of his first non-touring trip to South Florida.
"I've only been to Miami once before, with my wife, but way before she was my wife," Murdoch said. "We came here, because she's from Sanford, upstate. And when we drove into Miami, it was really late at night, all the lights were green.
"So we just kept going, and going fast. And this car with four guys was, like, racing us. And I thought, 'Oh, we're going to be in trouble here.' But they just rolled down their window while we were driving at 50 miles per hour to offer us Ritz crackers," he laughed.
"So I took them and just decided this must be a superfriendly place."
The teasing, the little revelations, the charmingly unrehearsed intimacy -- that's the magic of a Belle & Sebastian show.
Yes, the songs -- from "Like Dylan in the Movies" and "Get Me Away From Here I'm Dying" to "Judy & the Dream of Horses" and "Me and the Major" -- are quite perfect too.
But whether it's Murdoch or Stevie or any of their bandmates, these Glaswegians are just as witty, sweet, goofy, sharp, and smart-alecky in the flesh as they are on record.
So despite the B&S bandleader's apology for "possibly not playing your favorite tune" and his concession that "you can't please everyone" ... Mr. Murdoch and company shouldn't be so modest.
An hour and 32 minutes with Belle & Sebastian (and a few thousand other fans) is like a thoroughly charming sing-along with your most brilliantly smart-mouthed friends.
Belle & Sebastian's Setlist
-"Judy Is a Dick Slap"
-"I'm a Cuckoo"
-"If She Wants Me"
-"Funny Little Frog"
-"Piazza, New York Catcher"
-"If You're Feeling Sinister"
-"Like Dylan in the Movies"
-"Enter Sylvia Plath" (Keytar)
-"Dog on Wheels"
-"I Didn't See It Coming"
-"The Boy With the Arab Strap"
-"Get Me Away From Here I'm Dying"
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-"Judy & the Dream of Horses"
-"Me and the Major"
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