Belle & Sebastian

By CH Smith

If there were three words to describe Belle & Sebastian’s new album, Dear Catastrophe Waitress, they would be “pure, dead brilliant” (in a thick Scottish accent). There may even be words to describe Belle & Sebastian’s show in Toronto a couple of weeks back, but I couldn’t find any that would truly do it justice.

It was a stroke of luck that my recent trip to Toronto coincided with Scottish exports Belle & Sebastian’s only Canadian tour date this year–or maybe the gods were just making up for the time I flew to Toronto this summer to see Radiohead and the show was cancelled because of the blackout. Either way, I was as giddy as a fat kid at a bake sale as I took my seat in the incredible Massey Hall for what promised to be the show of a lifetime.

The band practically received a standing ovation as they took the stage and launched right into some of their better known classics like “Expectations,” “Stars of Track and Field” and “Loneliness of a Middle Distance Runner.”

The wonderfully nerdy leadman Stuart Murdoch manages the crowd like a pro while guitar wizard Stevie Jackson does his magic. Keyboard virtuoso Chris Geddes moves from one set of keys to another while the string section supports the whole gang.

It’s so wonderful when great visuals combine with perfect sounds to make a totally stunning experience. An impromptu version of the Jackson Five standard “I Want You Back” got the audience dancing in the aisles and the short but heartfelt encore of “Sleeping the Clock Around” ended the night with a standing ovation.

As expected, the bulk of the set-list came from their new album Dear Catastrophe Waitress. The album is yet again a wonderful mix of soul-filled, popped-up, hand-clapping songs like “Step Into My Office, Baby,” “Dear Catastrophe Waitress,” “You Don’t Send Me” and the finger-snapping “Roy Walker” with slower quirky tunes like “Piazza, New York Catcher,” “If She Wants Me” and “Lord Anthony”.

Seeing these songs performed live showed a side of this album that many may never experience, and reinforced the quality of Dear Catastrophe Waitress. I’m sure most Belle & Sebastian fans already have this album and already love it. For the rest of you, at least you’ve now heard of Belle & Sebastian, but that doesn’t mean you’ve heard Belle & Sebastian. There’s only one way to remedy that, pick up Dear Catastrophe Waitress.

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