Belle And Sebastian’s Melbourne performance was a truly unifying experience
Review: Belle And Sebastian & Totally Mild at the Palais Theatre, May 4 2018
For fans of Belle & Sebastian, it’s hard to imagine the legendary Scottish indie-pop delivering anything but a stellar performance to their legions of dedicated fans, and last night, as the group returned to Melbourne’s Palais Theatre for the first time since 2015, they again proved their worth as one of the greatest bands not just of their genre, but of all time.
As crowds slowly filled into the picturesque Palais Theatre in the seaside suburb of St Kilda on Friday night, it became quite clear that this was not just going to be a run of the mill performance, rather, this was going to be the sort of gig whose quality is fitting of taking place within the gorgeous walls of this vintage theatre.
Kicking off the evening’s proceedings was Melbourne’s Totally Mild, who took to the stage to perform a selection of tracks from their 2015 debut Down Time, and their-recently released Her. Fronted by the stunning vocals of Elizabeth Mitchell, Totally Mild’s set ebbed and flowed in a multitude of directions, at times heading in the dream-pop direction of bands such as the Cocteau Twins, other times tending towards to the shoegaze of My Bloody Valentine, while also resolving to the jangle-pop sounds popularised by bands like Teenage Fanclub.
Following a few false starts in some songs (explained away by the fact that Mitchell has been away for a month “on a mountain, doing mountain things”), the group’s ethereal, silky smooth sound enveloped the crowd and saw Totally Mild prove their name to be a falsity as they delivered a stunning set which proved them to be exactly the sort of band that should support indie-pop royalty such as Belle And Sebastian.
After a brief intermission, which saw the evening’s attendees gather in the foyer to chatter with eager excitement about both the preceding and upcoming performances, the main stage became bathed in a calming blue light which was soon to host the main event.
As almost every seat in the theatre had become filled up, Belle And Sebastian dutifully took to the stage, with the Glaswegian collective’s endearing presence soon bringing a smile to everyone in the audience.
Kicking things off with the title track of the band’s 1997 EP, Dog On Wheels, there was no time for warming up, with the band instantly kicking things into top gear, performing with the intensity of a group who were already at the evening’s encore.
Soon, the entirety of the audience rose to their feet as the infectious ‘I’m A Cuckoo’ rang out throughout the theatre, giving frontman Stuart Murdoch the perfect chance to showcase his rockstar moves, dancing and gliding around the stage like a man possessed as the entirety of the audience sang out in unison.
With the majority of the band’s members switching instruments between each song, and both Stuart Murdoch and guitarist Stevie Jackson providing the comic relief between tracks, the stage’s backdrop was filled with an eclectic mixture of primary colours, wallpaper-like patterns, and old filmstrips, proving the evening’s performance was a full audio-visual treat for everyone in attendance.
As the show continued (and audience members acted akin to yo-yos as they rose to their feet and returned to their seat for each song), the group delved into a wide variety of new classics and old favourites, including ‘Step Into My Office, Baby’, ‘The Stars Of Track And Field’, ‘The Boy With The Arab Strap’, and ‘Piazza, New York Catcher’, the latter of which saw Murdoch sitting on the edge of the stage, performing the track in an almost-whisper that felt as though this song was made just for you.
With the mixture between the evening’s huge choruses and the group’s stellar musicianship, the performance at times felt akin to that of a mammoth stadium show, while managing to retain the personality and intimacy of the smallest club show, with Murdoch switching between the role of the charismatic frontman belting out huge hits, and the personable old friend, as he shared softly-spoken jokes with the mesmerised crowd.
Following a stunning performance of 1996’s ‘Judy And The Dream Of Horses’, the group took their brief leave, only to return momentarily, with Stuart Murdoch dressed appropriately in a souvenir Australian flag t-shirt.
Performing a stellar encore of some fan favourites, including ‘The Party Line’, ‘Photo Jenny’, and ‘Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying’, the latter of which featured Murdoch climbing stage props and speakers like the charismatic legend that he is, the group soon waved goodbye to their grateful audience, promising their return, and undoubtedly regretting that the evening’s performance had to come to an end.
After more than 20 years as one of the most beloved and critically-acclaimed indie-pop bands of all time, Belle And Sebastian amazingly continue to get better and better with each and every performance, something which bands of twice their tenure can often only dream of. With the group’s endearing and enduring tunes bringing together fans of all ages for one of the most delightful concert experiences imaginable, Belle And Sebastian still provide one of the best live shows you’ll find anywhere.
Belle And Sebastian @ Palais Theatre, 04/05/18 Setlist
‘Dog On Wheels’
‘I’m A Cuckoo’
‘We Were Beautiful’
‘Another Sunny Day’
‘Step Into My Office, Baby’
‘Sweet Dew Lee’
‘I Want The World To Stop’
‘Piazza, New York Catcher’
‘There Is An Everlasting Song’
‘The Stars Of Track And Field’
‘The Boy With The Arab Strap’
‘Judy And The Dream Of Horses’
‘The Party Line’
‘Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying’
Totally Mild Setlist
‘Working Like A Crow’
‘From One Another’
The article was originally published on Tone Deaf