Photos by Amanda Farah
“This was a good idea, eh? Someone had a good idea.” Gazing out into the coloured lights of Tivoli, and beyond them, the blue moon rising into view, Belle & Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch is in a jolly mood. The Glasgow indie-pop legends appear to have adopted Copenhagen as their mid-tour break spot of choice, and as they tell it, the grassy spots of Assistens Cemetery are the spiritual homeland for all things whimsical and twee.
In spite of their reputation for low-key chamber pop, the band’s latest release Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance veers in the opposite direction, towards something more danceable and extroverted. Certainly they have pulled out all the stops for this tour, cramming thirteen people on stage and peppering their set with little video interludes and slickly-produced projections. At times this veers into almost ridiculous territory, especially during the day-glo disco excess of “The Party Line”, but this is tempered by vision of Stuart bouncing around the stage in high-waisted jeans and a turtleneck.
As with any band with almost two decades of work behind them, Belle & Sebastian have to balance their new material with an impressive backlog of indie hits. But surprisingly, some of the most memorable moments of the evening occur during songs from Girls in Peacetime. The Talking Heads-channeling “Perfect Couples” promises to be a live highlight for years go come, aided by Stevie Jackson’s ad-hoc monologue including gems such as (to be read in a Glaswegian accent):
“Girls on bikes, we see a lot of that round here, we dig it”;
[on the subject of the tv show Borgen] “Have you seen it? Lovely interiors, best lampshades I’ve ever seen… But what do you want from me, I’m middle-aged.”
Keen to include their audience in as many ways as possible, Stevie and Stuart serenade a young Swedish woman with “Jonathan David”, before inviting twenty fans to participate in the traditional stage invasion/dance-along to “The Boy with the Arab Strap”. Everyone is invited to join the band for meditation and a canal tour on the following day, no doubt causing packs of oddly-coiffed skinny boys to desperately roam the city all of Saturday. Because no matter how big the venue, no matter how elaborate the stage set-up, Belle & Sebastian will always be the band for lazy book-readers and tea-sippers, the last vanguard of the quietest revolution.