A Thursday night summer outdoor show is an opportunity for a good time, contingent on a number of factors. There’s the setting (impeccable), the weather (hanging in there), the performer (mostly excellent back catalogue spanning two decades) and (perhaps most importantly) the will of the artist to indulge the gathered masses with their set selection. Fortunately for those in attendance, Belle and Sebastian rattle through a joyous, crowd-pleasing set, cherry picking from throughout their extensive career while leaning slightly on If You’re Feeling Sinister. Their’s is a songbook built for all seasons to a degree and tonight, in Dublin’s finest outdoor venue, we’re treated to a breezy, sun drenched ramble through their discography.
‘Act Of The Apostle’ eases us into proceedings which truly kick start with ‘I’m A Cuckoo’, Stuart Murdoch considering committing to playing guitar for a fleeting moment before ultimately concluding that joining the crowd in simply having a dance and revelling in the Thin Lizzy references is a far better option. ‘Seeing Other People’ is a reminder of the potency of the backing vocals of Stevie Jackson, and reinforces the excellence of the quality of sound at these Iveagh Gardens shows. ‘She’s Losing It’ is introduced as being from ‘before some of you were born’, the sole Tigermilk cut of the night.
‘Piazza New York Catcher’ is a delight, featuring a supremely demure incursion into the crowd from Murdoch, reflective of the predominantly relaxed but joyful atmosphere felt throughout this show. The exception to this rule is the by now entrenched tradition of a stage invasion for ‘The Boy With The Arab Strap’, which sees a gleeful influx of people from the front row dancing like there was not a few thousand people watching them. Such was their vigour, an extension to their time on stage was granted for a giddy (as ever) ‘Legal Man’.
Belle and Sebastian, as they are in 2017, are naturally an entity far removed from that which released Tigermilk and …Sinister but now as LPs become more and more spaced out, it’s also increasingly apparent that this is a group at ease with their legacy and increasingly more adept at cherry picking latter period efforts that sync well with older gems. There are middling moments, such as tentative introductions of new songs, but these are offset by throwaway moments such as Jackson’s brief cover of ‘Love Is In The Air’ which is rapturously received. What makes this show work is the general coherence of the overall set, and at no point is this clearer than in the build towards its conclusion.
‘Stars of Track And Field’ followed by ‘Dylan In The Movies’ is a real treat, while ‘I Didn’t See It Coming’, with Sarah Martin on lead vocals is a gem, without question an underrated later period turn, from 2010’s …Write About Love. Following the aforementioned stage invasion, the set proper comes to a sweet close with ‘Judy And The Dream of Horses’. An encore of two halves follows, ‘Party Line’ from 2015’s Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance is a damp squib to these ears, although welcomed with open arms by a cohort of the audience, but there’s no doubting the calibre of the final track aired tonight, as ‘Get Me Away From Here I’m Dying’ is a triumphant closer to a tremendous show.
Belle and Sebastian photographed for State by Mark Earley.