Belle and Sebastian are hardly the type of band that inspires wild enthusiasm among their fans, but dang, those in attendance for their show Wednesday night at Red Rocks needed a shot in the arm. The fifteen rows furthest from the stage were nearly empty; those in the rows closest to the stage weren’t exactly superfans. It was hard to watch.
Belle and Sebastian, however, were wonderful to watch. If you missed the non-Nirvana part of the nineties and the non-Strokes part of the aughts, Belle and Sebastian are a Scottish sevenpiece (none of whom go by Belle or Sebastian) known for making people take indie pop seriously. Critics adore them, countless indie movie soundtracks feature them, and the word “twee” gets thrown around when describing their sound.
Asking for a friend: are orchestras twee? The entire Colorado Symphony Orchestra filled the rear half of the stage, elevating the baroque half of Belle and Sebastian’s baroque pop to bigger, brassier heights. The band enjoyed the massive support; frontman Stuart Murdoch joked that they saved up all their money just to spend on the orchestra.
The group wove tracks from their most recent album, Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, among older, well-loved numbers. “The Party Line” sounded spectacular alongside “I’m A Cuckoo”, marvelous renditions of “If You’re Feeling Sinister” and “If You Find Yourself Caught In Love” rang out sweetly and got several clusters of people dancing. “This is the best dancing we’ve seen since Glasgow!” Murdoch declared, then invited the audience onstage to groove with him.
The band closed their set with “Sleep the Clock Around” before returning for a two-song encore. Murdoch asked the crowd to sing along to “Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying” – the lackluster response only further attested to the crowd’s comatose status. Thank God said response failed to stop the band from giving their all during the delectable rock ‘n’ roll finish of “The Blues Are Still Blue”.
But choosing not to play “Piazza, New York Catcher” or “Judy And The Dream Of Horses” when facing such a mellow crowd? That’s risky. It’s an unfortunate truism: if you want to get people psyched, play the big hits. Get ‘em going. Nothing deflates a good performance like a lame crowd.
That being said, lame crowds don’t negate good performances. Belle and Sebastian played highlight after highlight from their extensive catalog with charming conviction. With any luck, they’ll be received much more warmly next time around. They deserve it.
I’m A Cuckoo
The Party Line
Dirty Dream Number Two
If She Wants Me
I Want the World to Stop
If You’re Feeling Sinister
The Power of Three
Dear Catastrophe Waitress
If You Find Yourself Caught In Love
The Boy With The Arab Strap
Sleep The Clock Around
Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying (encore)
The Blues Are Still Blue (encore)