Live Review: Belle and Sebastian Deliver One for the Ages at the Astor
On May 2, Belle and Sebastian put on a show for the ages (and all ages), lighting up the Astor Theatre with their magnetic and magical music.
Kicking off proceedings was local up-and-comer Carla Geneve. I didn’t know she was opening, and being a fan of her work, I was pretty happy when I saw her walk out. Her bluesy guitar skills are undeniable, and her acutely-observed lyrics were a perfect set-up for the main act. Expect big things.
Belle and Sebastian started their set with ‘Nobody’s Empire’, the building, stirring opening track to their last “real” album, 2015’s Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance (their latest project has been a collection of EPs, collectively known as How to Solve Our Human Problems, released throughout 2017 and 2018). From there, they launched into eternal favourite ‘I’m a Cuckoo’ and new song ‘We Were Beautiful’. Their set was a real crowd-pleaser, mixing favourites from across their nine-albums-deep discography (including songs “older then some of the people in the room,” as they put it) with their undeniably catchy new songs. With such a vast discography, of course there were going to be favourites that missed out (I was personally hoping for ‘Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying’), but you couldn’t find much to complain about what they did choose to play.
The seated venue created an interesting dynamic. During Carla’s set and the first few songs, the vibe seemed a bit hesitant, and the energy was a little subdued. After a bit of subtle coaxing from the band, a handful of more confident individuals made their way to the front to dance, and from there the “mosh” grew and the crowd warmed up. I’m not sure why it took so long- maybe people were scared of standing out, or they weren’t sure if it was allowed. But once they were there, things really kicked off. During ‘The Boy with the Arab Strap’, a whole crowd of people were pulled up on stage for a massive dance session, putting smiles on everyone’s faces. I’ll never get the image of Stuart Murdoch sitting, legs dangling off the edge of the stage as audience members crowded around him like he was telling a story, out of my mind.
Speaking of Stuart Murdoch, he could have been a comedian in another lifetime. I have never seen an artist more natural at the underestimated art of audience interaction. He had everyone in stitches with his observational humour, contributing to one of the most fun atmospheres I have ever experienced at a gig. He had clearly done his research on our city, making references about everything from the new stadium to the long-extinct trams I didn’t even know Perth used to have. It really does make a difference when it is obvious the band is happy to be there.
After an enormously well received main-set capped off with ‘Judy and the Dream of Horses’, the band kept the crowd waiting for what seemed like ages to deliver their encore. Starting off with ‘The Party Line’, the band then scoured the crowd for requests. It sounded like everyone in the Astor Theatre had their wishes, but I was pretty happy with what they settled on: ‘The State I Am In’, the beautiful introduction track to the band’s first ever album, 1996’s Tigermilk. It was a fitting end to an absolutely magical night for not only us, but for the band too, as it seemed.