‘Cardigan-swinging delight’: Belle and Sebastian at Bristol’s Lloyds Amphitheatre - review and pictures

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‘At a Belle and Sebastian gig you can do whatever you want’

Last night (July 15) saw Scottish indie popsters Belle and Sebastian finally get their go at Bristol’s Lloyds Amphitheatre for a gig presented by Bristol Beacon after two and a half years of Covid cancellations.

It worked out as great timing, in every way, as it fell on the first evening of the Bristol Harbourside Festival. My walk to the show took in the harbour in all its glory with people on jam-packed boats welcoming others on board while pirates chilled outside.

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Django Django were supporting. I have been a fan of the group for years but this was my first opportunity to see them live so I was excited to see how their live set compared to recordings and how they fitted in with the dynamic of Belle and Sebastian fans.

Clearly a few others thought the same as they had gathered early to catch them come straight out with Spirals - a song which if you didn’t know Django Django before was exactly what they are were about.

It featured a driving keyboard riff along with an underlining funky bass that got a few jigging. Admittedly, only a few as it was early set and people needed to get into the groove.

Django Django certainly got the crowd in the mood (Credit: Chris Cooper)Django Django certainly got the crowd in the mood (Credit: Chris Cooper)
Django Django certainly got the crowd in the mood (Credit: Chris Cooper)

The crowd needed Django Django to get them going. And all it took was ‘come on i need to hear ya’. I turned around and everyone was there, shouting back! They had their crowd.

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The smoke machine got going and the bass pounded as they launched into Waking Up - a song that for me has been a cycling anthem when on long trips with the chorus ‘our home is the open road‘. I’m sure it means something else to them!

The set got funkier as they all took turns to play drums together, then keys together, then harmonizing vocals together.

Vincent Neff setting the tone ahead of the arrival of Belle and Sebastian (Credit: Chris Cooper)Vincent Neff setting the tone ahead of the arrival of Belle and Sebastian (Credit: Chris Cooper)
Vincent Neff setting the tone ahead of the arrival of Belle and Sebastian (Credit: Chris Cooper)

There were lots of woos from Derry front man Vincent Neff, and from the crowd. Lots of woos is a good gauge that the crowd and the band are into it and are having a good time. Nobody goes woo, if they aren’t, do they?

A one-man moshing machine behind me in a Beatles t-shirt shouted ‘Default‘, and they played it! A song they were always going to play, but it got everyone going and possibly won over some neutral Belle and Sebastian fans with its pop-indie-anthemic nature.

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With a crashing crescendo of beating drums and double keyboard playing they left a crowd more than ready for what was coming next.

Belle and Sebastian came straight on with Sleep Around The Clock, starting as the meant to go on with fast tempo-toe-tapping acoustic guitars and the glorious sound of the trumpet - it was a very special sound.

Singer Stuart Murdoch dressed in baggy flares which at a glimpse looked like he could be in an egg and spoon race!

He is a bundle of energy; riggling and jumping up on top of the keyboard and waving a drum stick to Wrapped Up In Books singing ‘I never want to leave you, we never had a fight‘.

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Stuart Murdoch was full of energy during Bell and Sebastian’s performance (Credit: Chris Cooper)Stuart Murdoch was full of energy during Bell and Sebastian’s performance (Credit: Chris Cooper)
Stuart Murdoch was full of energy during Bell and Sebastian’s performance (Credit: Chris Cooper)

It feels like Murdoch is a conductor to the crowd who all clearly love him. He skips around the stage jolting about like a jolly Ian Curtis on stilts, forcing the crowd to do the same, well maybe not like Ian Curtis.

“At a Belle and Sebastian gig you can do whatever you want,” he states. “We aren’t cool and we never were.” I’m sure they were definitely cool back in the ‘90s! But I like his inclusive nature of trying to get everyone involved, even asking for requests at one point which I don’t see much today.

The set spanned across their ‘65-year’ back catalogue with Boy With The Arab Strap taking centre stage as the light dropped and the evening kicked off with plenty of cardigan-swinging delight.

Just look at those trousers -Murdoch in full swing (Credit: Chris Cooper)Just look at those trousers -Murdoch in full swing (Credit: Chris Cooper)
Just look at those trousers -Murdoch in full swing (Credit: Chris Cooper)

I LOVED Reclaim The Night , a song I discovered on the day ahead of the gig. This song brings Sarah Martin into prominence as her soft voice blends perfectly with a spiraling keyboard riff.

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As the show creeps towards its end, the crowd of die-hard fans (some Scottish) didn’t want it to end.

The band don’t waste time going off and coming back again; their encore is included in their set.

The die-hard Belle and Sebastian fans did not want the show to end (Credit: Chris Cooper)The die-hard Belle and Sebastian fans did not want the show to end (Credit: Chris Cooper)
The die-hard Belle and Sebastian fans did not want the show to end (Credit: Chris Cooper)

Singer Murdoch has ants in his pants and is still full of energy even after a full set and a walk up to Clifton in the day. He absolutely loves chatting to everyone, even half way through songs sometimes!

So they end with Judy And The Dream Of Horses. This song, for me, encapsulates everything about Belle and Sebastian. Its soft-jolly-melancholy lyrics and vocals, then rousing dancing call with the trumpet to grab you by the hips and push them left to right.

Great night. Off we now go into the harbourside festival. What a start.

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