Belle & Sebastian Grace the Crescent City For the First Time

12:44 June 15, 2018

On a dreary yet humid evening last Monday night, Scottish pop alt-rock sensations Belle & Sebastian welcomed a crowd of easy-going fans to their show at the Civic Theater. Before we get to that band, however, we start with openers Men I Trust. I had never heard of the quartet before they were announced for the show, but their mellow style of music seemed to go over well with the slowly trickling-in crowd.

The Montreal-based project, led by vocalist/guitarist Bernache, has released two albums since forming in 2014. The mixture of sounds they employ varies between slightly ambient electronic music and a blend of what I’m sure Pitchfork would love. That’s not to say it’s bad, though; I rather enjoyed it. It’s nothing that will set the music world on fire, but for an opener, it was easy to get into the music. 

One of the worst things about opening shows for more obscure bands is the audience, or lack thereof, in most cases. The band sounded really good and seemed to enjoy their time, but the audience wasn’t what it perhaps should have been, and with only 30 minutes to do their work, the crowd hadn’t quite filled out. However, I was impressed and will be checking them out further as soon as I get around to it. 

Next up was the headliner of the night, Belle & Sebastian. Having released nine albums since debuting 22 years ago, the band has plenty of great songs to indulge yourself in. Their most recent, 2015’s Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, adds another worthy notch in the band's career for somewhat elite music fans to enjoy. I have listened and enjoyed most of their albums, yet in general, specific track names still elude me, although they have gotten a fair amount of attention over the years. 

As for the show itself, I will say that there were plenty of adorable couples sharing in the events, which isn’t really surprising, but still ends up being heartwarming. That effortless feeling of love is something the nine-piece group exudes confidently. Coming onto the stage in a peaceful yet playful manner, they launched into their first song of the night with a bigger production than I, for one, expected them to have. It played to their advantage, though, and the crowd clearly enjoyed it. 

The evening got even more vibrant when they charged into one of the few songs I recognized, “I’m a Cuckoo," from their 2004 album Dear Catastrophe Waitress, and by the looks of it, the eager crowd was thrilled to be getting the song. Along the way, the band mentioned how it was their first-ever performance in New Orleans, while lead vocalist Stuart Murdoch (kind of a sinister name, but he’s not anything but joyful and exuberant) waxed poetic and asked the crowd for the correct pronunciation of our Crescent City. 

From there, the band hit on notes that were both cute and lovely, like “If She Wants Me,” and even a more old-school, '60s-vibe light show showcasing “Show Me the Sun.” I will say this about the band: one of the funniest moments was always the end of the song when the band members would run around to change instruments. It was interesting to watch, but what that tells you is that this is a band of very gifted musicians who are very familiar with trying new things to get the right sound. You don’t see that too often, but again, it showcased their features in a subtle way. 

The night paced on with joyful tracks, like the romantic “Piazza, the New York Catcher” and many more, presenting the fairly full Civic with a perfect blend of artsy yet contemporary pop music that delved into the rock landscape. Having seen the show and seeing the reaction from the crowd, I think it’s safe to say that we left as big of an impression on the members of Belle & Sebastian as they did on us. It may have been a lowly Monday night during summer, but for one brief moment, everyone was free of worries and dancing without a care in the world. 

Photos by Steve Hatley

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