TVD Live: Belle and Sebastian at the Riviera Theatre, 4/3

PHOTOS: BRIGID GALLAGHER | Belle and Sebastian, the indie-pop veterans from Glasgow, took the stage at the Riviera Theatre Friday night. After witnessing Friday’s performance, it’s clear that Belle and Sebastian don’t really care whether or not you think their music is just a soundtrack for all things twee. After 19 years and nine beloved records later, it seems that they, and especially frontman Stuart Murdoch, just want to throw dance parties. And the people want to dance.

Belle and Sebastian have just begun their US tour in support of their ninth record, Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance. Friday’s show opener was the Scottish two-piece, Honeyblood.

I heard several people around me exclaim that Belle and Sebastian was their “all time favorite band” and it was hard not to notice the anticipation and eagerness of the audience—it’s been five years since the last record, Belle and Sebastian Write About Love. During the set up, any time a microphone was adjusted or a light flickered, someone in the crowd would enthusiastically start whooping and clapping. So when the dozen or so musicians that make up Belle and Sebastian’s touring band took the stage and began the show with “Nobody’s Empire,” it was a relief. Next, they played “I’m A Cuckoo,” a throwback from 2003’s Dear Catastrophe Waitress.

They slipped in old favorites like “Piazza, New York Catcher” and a medley of “A Century of Fakers” with “She Wants Me” in between newer songs “Perfect Couples” and “The Power of Three.” During these moments, it became clear that this performance was not about pushing through the latest material only to come back for an encore of crowdpleasers. Rather, Belle and Sebastian just want the shows to be enjoyable—twice, Murdoch invited audience members to join the band on stage and an awkward, hipster dance party ensued.

The music was complemented by images on a projection screen that took up the entire space behind the band—grainy black and white video footage displaying a loose interpretation of lyrics from “Nobody’s Empire” (the song is actually about Stuart Murdoch’s longtime battle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), colorful dancing silhouettes overlapping one another, and people dressed in 1950s fashions danced in and out of a small room to create strange patterns with their movements.

The show ended with not one, but two glorious encores that left the audience clapping on and on, hoping the band would come out for a third time. But alas, Chicago has strict curfew laws and so we all went home. Even after 19 years, Belle and Sebastian are definitely worth seeing.

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