Saturday, March 11, 2006

No coffee yet and I was up late trying to do some amateur plumbing on a clogged bathtub (didn't work) so this is probably a little foggy. But, put briefly, I feel sorry for any fans of The New Pornographers or Belle And Sebastian who miss this current tour. I would, and have, paid to see either band individually but there was no way I was going to miss them together. The New Pornographers (Has anyone yet thought of a clever abbreviation of their name? Newpies? Pornos?) opened with a tight set drawn mostly from the new album. I think that's the least of their three and would have liked to hear more from the first album, but it's small complaint on both counts. Neko Case's absence was made up for by, I think, frontman A.C. Newman's cousin, who filled in ably. Also, special guest star Nora O'Connor (a.k.a. "our friend Nora") made a couple of appearances. Nothing in the way of big surprises, but that's not what opening acts do, even those who could headline. If anyone was there just for B&S, I suspect they left with a new band to fill out their playlists.

After a longer-than-usual intermission accompanied, for reasons that escape me, by DJ Danger Mouse's The Gray Album, Belle And Sebastian took the stage and the audience was ready for them. Though they opened with "Expectations," from Tigermilk, this was very much the Life Pursuit Show. In fact, theY only played one song—"Get Me Away From Here I'm Dying"—from If You're Feeling Sinsiter, their best-known album. No complaints. The new material sounded great and the band sounded happy to play it. It was a stark contrast from the last time we saw B&S on the Storytelling tour on the night—we're pretty sure—before Isobel left the band. It was the kind of set that nadirs are made of. Not awful just really uninspired. This was different. If you listened to the first few B&S albums, it was easy to imagine Stuart Murdoch as a sickly recluse with no use for girls and an aversion to eye contact. This band was led by Stuart Murdoch: Jolly, Dancing, Ladies Man. And it worked too.

• In what only looked like shtick, Murdoch responded to an e-mailer's request by pulling the requestee's wife on stage and letting her take the duet part on "Lazy Line Painter Jane." She killed.
• After getting chided by guitarist Stevie Jackson for some impromptu crowd surfing, Murdoch stated it was fun, and everyone should try it. And here's how (not verbatim): "Start a band, put out a couple of critically acclaimed albums. Don't do any press. Release obscure pictures of your friends. Lose a couple of members. Have somethin' of a resurgence." You have to appreciate that candor.
• Stevie Jackson's dapper suit.

A final nice touch: The recorded exit music was Alan Price's great title song from Lindsay Anderson's great movie O, Lucky Man.

Footnote: Outside, I bumped into an old high school friend who was in town to catch this show and tonight's Stereolab show. I remember him when he was a committed metal head. After a quick chat, we steered him to the restaurant where we'd had dinner, a place called Fiesta Mexicana. Our marching band program from my junior year: "La Fiesta Mexicana." He was, oddly enough, the second old marching band pal I ran into this week. although the other one was Internet-only.
Second footnote: Behind me in the guest list line: The always-lovely Sally Timms.

No comments: