Gig review: Belle & Sebastian, Glasgow

A balancing act for Belle & Sebastian at the Hydro. Picture: Esme Allen

A balancing act for Belle & Sebastian at the Hydro. Picture: Esme Allen

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The Hydro is a curveball venue choice for Belle & Sebastian, whose (considerable) cult following tends to place them in spaces which don’t sacrifice intimacy for the sake of capacity. The challenge here was how to fill an arena without compromising the clarity and delicacy of their exquisite pop songs.

Belle & Sebastian - Hydro, Glasgow

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The band embraced the opportunity, especially frontman Stuart Murdoch, who appeared entirely comfortably with the jump in scale, indulging in stadium-friendly “hello Glasgow, let’s party” patter like a man who has waited all his life to work a catwalk, fire a T-shirt gun, drop balloons on the crowd and join a troupe of female dancers in acting out the story of Dear Catastrophe Waitress like an indie Pan’s People.

But despite the group’s commitment to a cohesive sound, the PA levels barely punched through to the back of the hall. Even their special guests the Scottish Festival Orchestra failed to swell to fill the space.

There were unpredictable highlights in Stevie Jackson’s satire Perfect Couples, an Abigail’s Party for the indie in crowd, and Sarah Martin’s The Power of Three with its singing synths and sliding strings, both of which penetrated further than the more dancefloor-friendly tracks from new album Girls In Peacetime Want to Dance.

On balance – and this was a balancing act – the group won the day with charm, achieving a full finger-popping sound for If You Find Yourself Caught In Love and a celebratory stage invasion with the irresistible Pied Piper groove of The Boy With the Arab Strap.

Seen on 22 May

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