Gig review: Belle and Sebastian at York Grand Opera House

After the recent release of their three-disc EP How to Solve Our Human Problems (Parts 1-3), Glaswegian outfit Belle & Sebastian paid a welcome visit to York's Grand Opera House, delivering an outstanding performance.

Belle and Sebastian. Picture: Gaelle Beri
Belle and Sebastian. Picture: Gaelle Beri

Opening with Nobody’s Empire, from the album Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, certainly showed intent and set a steady precedent of what was to come. Quickly flowing into the ever popular and upbeat I’m a Cuckoo, the band immediately grabbed the crowd’s attention.

The set continued to impress with a mixture of old and new songs, before heading into an Americana/country styling of Piazza, New York Catcher, which was different and unexpected. However the crowd seemed to thoroughly enjoy it regardless.

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The chemistry between band members was high, the comedic interchanges between singer Stuart Murdoch and guitarist Stevie Jackson added a different element to the show, especially when Jackson was attempting to impersonate Yorkshire accents from his experiences “growing up watching Emmerdale”.

The band flowed between instruments with Murdoch playing keys, guitar and dancing round stage and Jackson playing acoustic and electric guitar and taking up vocal responsibilities for Sweet Dew Lee, then again for Jonathan David with a small impromptu intro to Ebony & Ivory.

Encouraging the audience to get on their feet and dance for Sukie in the Graveyard, was ambitious, being as they were in an all-seater venue, but some made an extremely valiant effort to comply. This led into what is probably their most popular touring song The Boy with the Arab Strap when Murdoch invited members of the audience to join the band on stage by walking through the “doorway to Narnia”.

They finished with the catchy Get Away From Here, I’m Dying from the album If You’re Feeling Sinister. The upbeat music yet sorrowful lyrics was a stark contrast to the previously joyous and danceable numbers.

Finishing to a standing ovation and rapturous applause, they re-emerged for a two song encore, Judy and the Dream of Horses, and finally ending on Sleep Around the Clock.

The mixture of old and new material proved to be an auditory delight to the crowd; Murdoch promised that they would come back to York soon, hopefully they don’t leave it too long before a new tour is announced.