UPDATE: Belle & Sebastian/New Pornographers - Metropolis, Montreal - Feb. 27, 2006
The crowd was wild. So many fans, so much cheering after the first couple notes of a song, so much DANCING. These Canadians LOVE their Belle & Sebastian. The excitement and dedication of the fans made me think of my Phish days (well that and the dread locked hippie dancer in front of me). At one point I asked a French speaker what song was being playing, as I was lost amongst a full fledge sing along behind a techno beat. What I heard was "Cheerful Cowgirls off Bookends.” I still have no idea. Either way it must be off some non-major release and it seemed that everyone around me knew it.
Stuart Murdoch was in charge up on the stage. Between his banter with the audience, his self-proclaimed "Molly Ringwald dancing," and amazing power over the songs, he made me think of Bowie and Smiths era Morrissey. I'm not saying he's at that level, but he emanated mad gender-neutral bravado. Off-lead singer Stevie Jackson even stated to the crowd at one point "this is like an Elvis show," referencing the disappearance of Murdoch who had jumped off the stage and was shaking hands with the crowd.
I have a bigger appreciation for B&S's music after seeing the show. The sound was larger and stronger then it is on record. They definitely kept the sweet harmonies and cutesy lyrics, but songs like Sleep the Clock Around and Simple Things were larger, dancier, and fairly raw, while still maintaining fullness. I especially enjoyed the dirty keys on White Collor Boy - when they first started it made the whole venue shake. I hadn't noticed their prominence while listening to The Life Pursuit, but now I can't not hear it. And I love it. Another highlight was Dear Catastrophe Waitress' I'm a Cuckoo.
I also greatly enjoyed the New Pornographers. I wish we weren't in the very back of the venue, but the sightline was still pretty good. Carl Newman's niece, Kathryn Calder, did a great job with Neko Case's parts (those are some mighty big shoes). The sound was a bit more rocking then poppy, which I liked. And again, the crowd were nuts for them. I assume they get a fair amount of radio play up there, given the whole 30% native artist rule for Canadian radio and federal grants for music videos, etc.
And if you are sad that you missed the show, well you aren't completely out of luck. NPR will be webcasting Monday's show at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C. as part of their Live Concert Series. The webcast starts at 8 PM and should be available for stream the following day.