Home Live Review Live Review: Belle and Sebastian w/ The Weather Station @ The Anthem — 5/2/24

Live Review: Belle and Sebastian w/ The Weather Station @ The Anthem — 5/2/24

Live Review: Belle and Sebastian w/ The Weather Station @ The Anthem — 5/2/24
Belle and Sebastian bring the party to The Anthem on May 2, 2024. (Photo by David LaMason)

There is a feeling I get from listening to a Belle and Sebastian record. Maybe it’s the way they straddle that line between boundless joy and melancholy. Or, maybe, it’s the way those songs feel so familiar — borrowing from 1960s pop and classically baroque melodies.

But whatever it is, it’s a sound that is hard to shake, even after you’ve gone on to other things throughout my day. The six-piece band took over The Anthem Friday night in front of an enthusiastic crowd.

My first entry into the Belle and Sebastian catalog was the release of If You’re Feeling Sinister with that mysterious red cover and led to trying to find as much as I could in the pre-Google age. That led to a handful of live bootlegs from less than reputable sources until the release of their critically acclaimed third album, The Boy With the Arab Strap in 1998.

Back then finding a touring schedule for any band, let alone one from another country, was a feat in and of itself. I’d hear about shows, particularly in New York, but could never make it. As years went on I’d have the chance to see them and their fantastic live shows, so I knew their show at The Anthem was going to be great, but they really pulled out the stops for this one.

Opening the evening was The Weather Station, a fantastic band led by Tamara Lindeman whom I’d seen before but am always impressed with their compelling pop that goes from electronic to folky with songs that are hard to pull yourself away from.

Belle and Sebastian took the stage to the beautiful classical guitar intro of “Sister Buddha.” The band went into the lead tracks “Nobody’s Empire” and “Allie” from Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance. As Stuart Murdoch (vocals) took to the piano for the opening number and the band kicking things into gear with the paisley-influenced “Allie” as Sarah Martin (vocals/flute/violin) taking over on flute and harmony vocals with a particularly cutting guitar solo by Bobby Kildea.

Watch the official music video for “Allie” by Belle and Sebastian on YouTube:

Stevie Jackson (vocals/guitar) took over vocal duty on one of my favorite songs on the newest album, Late Developers, released last year on Matador Records, with a very spirted “So In The Moment” as he and Stuart danced about the stage. It was so fun to see the song performed live and clearly the band had the same feeling.

Stuart Murdoch and Stevie Jackson of Belle and Sebastian

I think when it comes to a band who has created such a body of catchy songs, there are inevitably songs on a setlist that you want to hear and aren’t included. But Belle and Sebastian picked a little bit of everything for their DC set. Old favorites like “Get Me Away From Here I’m Dying” and the stripped down “Piazza, The New York Catcher” sounded brilliant alongside newer ones like “Young and Stupid,” described by Stuart as “a little bit philosophical.”

“Usually at the end of the night somebody yells out for the next song,” Stuart Murdoch told the crowd. “And ironically nobody’s yelled for it yet. So we’re just gonna play it and get it out of our systems now… we want to see your hands during this one.”

Belle and Sebastian proceeded to play the oldest song of the set, “Lazy Line Painter Jane,” a song that always reminded me of maybe a long-lost Beatles tune as Stuart, Stevie, and Sarah all took to the mic and got this audience clapping along.

During the set, Stuart showed some photos the band took on their walk through DC on the huge screen at the back of the stage. Stuart Murdoch has a warm way of connecting to an audience. The conversational banter and self-effacing humor was endearing as during songs like “Dress Up In You,” he sat at the edge of the stage and sang to the crowd before getting back up and dancing along to the tune.

Watch Belle and Sebastian perform live in an NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert on YouTube:

Like they have been doing for a few years now, there comes a part of the show where Stuart invites fans onto the stage as part of an impromptu dance party. This time around as Belle and Sebastian started “The Boy with the Arab Strap,” audience members came up to sing and dance along. That continued through “The Party Line” with Stuart hopping from one speaker cabinet to the next along the stage, ending up on top of the piano as they wrapped up the main set with fan favorite “Sleep The Clock Around.”

Throughout the night several in the crowd called out their favorite songs, and as the band came back out for the encore they did pick one “Put the Book Back on the Shelf.” The encore wrapped with “Like Dylan in the Movies” and “Funny Little Frog” from The Life Pursuit.

Belle and Sebastian tour the USA through the end of May and then they are off to Europe and Australia.

The setlist included:

Nobody’s Empire
So in the Moment
Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying (Setlist alternate: Wrapped Up In Books)
Give a Little Time
If You’re Feeling Sinister
Lazy Line Painter Jane
Piazza, New York Catcher
Dress Up in You
To Be Myself Completely
Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John
Young and Stupid
There’s Too Much Love
The Boy With the Arab Strap
The Party Line
Sleep the Clock Around

Put the Book Back on the Shelf (Partial playthrough, Fan request)
Like Dylan in the Movies
Funny Little Frog

Here are more photos of Belle and Sebastian at The Anthem on May 2, 2024. All photos copyright and courtesy of David LaMason.

And here are photos of The Weather Station opening for Belle and Sebastian at The Anthem on May 2, 2024.


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