Belle and Sebastian @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham 10th May (sans Cockers)

After draining a couple of stubbies down my throat. Munching a beef pattie. And getting a TV style makeover from @cockerss 11 year old daughter, Bean. I was primed and ready for my boy date with none other than Mark Sanders off Twitter.

We started off with a short canal side pub-crawl, where we discussed all manner of things from a battle of the regional bands to ultra-marathons to what it would be like to be paralytic on the floor of a party boat that went by blasting Lionel Ritchie’s All Night Long surrounded by an assortment of costumed freaks leering over you and jeering at you to party ‘all night long’ when all you wanted to do was die peacefully. We even jotted down some notes for a hard hitting sci-fi novel where the world was governed by a highly intelligent computer based on statistical analysis (which seemed an awful lot like the plot to Terminator 2 on closer inspection).

Then it was time to move our feet in a coordinated effort towards the Symphony Hall. We called it ‘walking’.

Now, I’m not saying I don’t remember the Belle & Sebastian gig on Sunday. I’m not saying that my keen journalistic mind was paralyzed by a hangover and one too many ales pre-gig…
But I will say that my memory for detail was diminished. Significantly
Let’s start with what I do know. It was at the Symphony Hall. Which took a long time to look even remotely full. The squirrel-fluffing support act, Lower Dens, played to a static half-filled room (still a lot of people). To me they looked very far away, I think I was experiencing tunnel vision… their music seemed distant too as my attention floated from the Mx lead singer to @etranger swaying in his seat. He was not swaying to the music. Yet.Lower-Dens-604-604x400-1
Neither of us were too enthusiastic about Lower Dens. I was getting a late eighties, church reverb style pop from the act and it was combating the effect of the Ubu. The singers voice was nice, but it was sending me down a rabbit hole that I didn’t want to go down.

Belle & Sebastian came on and got a very warm reception from the now heaving crowd (can a crowd be heaving and static at the same time?) it was like Birmingham was welcoming a home-grown act. There was pride intermingled with the excitement.
And @etranger and I were now intermingled in our appreciation of the music. All loyalty to my regular gigging buddy @cockerss had been washed aside in a more forbidden, edgy kind of fun. (ahem)
Now, I don’t remember exactly what was played or what was said. There was mention of Birmingham’s canals and churches – Stuart Murdoch was definitely overselling the appeal of post-industrial town regeneration, even to the extent of showing a black and white public information film about urban renewal (or whatever) that went on for longer than it took to build the whole of England. Or longer than all the shitty canals of England. Take your pick.
I was on stand-by for a canal/anal joke from Marks the moment we set eyes on the Grand Birmingham Canal. But I was sadly disappointed.

Using a far superior gig review from @brumnotes as reference, I will now report what I can remember about the songs. Nobody’s Empire – err, yeah, that was good. Sounded like the good old B&S that I had got to know since hearing I’m a Cuckoo on Radio 2 at Uni. The only way I can describe B&S music is like a shaft of light through the curtains ever so slightly brightening the interior of a dingy room with a sleepy dog in it. (ahem ahem). Or, a shaft of light where the sun doesn’t shine – possible future album title.
Perfect Couples err, yeah, I don’t really remember. I’ll fill this bit with a generic description of the energy and intimacy of the performance. WAIT A MINUTE. I do remember, because this was Stevie Jackson’s time to shine, and right or wrong he really reminded me of Talking Heads or maybe Jonathan Richman. There was a cheeky charm that disarmed the crowd.
Dog on Wheels – my favorite song of the whole night. And second only to Lazy-line Painter Jane in terms of favourite song by B&S, which sadly didn’t get played.
Boy with the Arab Strap – biggest ear worm of the set.
We Rule the School – marked a sadder more wistful turn to the set. Get Me Away From Here – we actually got up off our butts to dance to this. Or it could’ve been a completely different song that got us swaying to the music. Perhaps Marks can fill in this minor detail. We weren’t the only ones to start dancing at this point. B&S had succeeded at getting a very healthy proportion of the crowd jigging away like it wasn’t a Sunday at all, but one of the more popular nights like Friday or Saturday.

Well, I’ll stop attempting to remember information that is quite clearly beyond my reach while I’m ahead. Ahead may be an exaggeration. Let’s just say while I still have some credib….while I still can.

Traditional fuck up with the trains meant that I had to run from Moor st to New Street – filling my asthma battered lungs with Birmingham’s post-industrial smog.


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