Review: Belle and Sebastian at Norwich Open
- Credit: Archant
As a big fan of not just music in Norwich but also the city's rich choice of venues, I found myself looking forward to Belle and Sebastian at Norwich Open for two reasons.
The band remain one of the best Britain has got, with a superb back catalogue and a brilliant new album, January's Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance, to show off.
Their touring isn't as prolific as their album producing however, so having only witnessed them twice in two decades of gig going, their trip to Norwich was one to mark down in the diary as 'must-not miss'.
Secondly, this was to be a first musical visit to the main room of Open, a converted bank in the city centre, and I was keen to see how it ranked for live bands against Norwich's better-known venues.
And neither disappointed.
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The Scottish band we're on top form, keen to get our weekends started with a party.
It's fair to say B&S haven't always enjoyed a reputation as being the most inclusive of live acts, perhaps preferring to let their music do the talking.
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However they themselves have admitted to working hard to hone their on stage performance - and the show was all the better for it.
They really did push the boat out, employing a brass section and with several other musicians plugging away in the background. At its height I counted 14 band members on stage. It added both intricacy and depth to the songs.
With so many truly fantastic tracks to chose from it would surely have been hard for them to get the music wrong? They didn't. Highlights included opener 'Nobody's Empire', 'Stars of Track and Field', 'Perfect Couple' and 'Dog On Wheels'. The mix of old and new was spot on.
Frontman Stuart Murdoch was on top form from the off, chatting with the crowd and expressing what seemed to be real delight to have the band back in Norwich.
At one stage he happily chatted to a man dressed as frog in the crowd (presumably for the song Funny Little Frog), while later on five fans were pulled on stage to provide handclaps, and for the excellent 'The Boy With The Arab Strap', a dozen crowd members were chosen to provide dance shapes (of varying standard) and general smiley faces to the show.
The venue, meanwhile, was just as excellent. Cavernous in size (it holds 1,400 and was sold-out for B&S) but managing to feel intimate as well. It's a Grade II listed building and the plush internal architecture adds to the atmosphere.
If its owners decide live music is a direction they'd seriously like to go down, it will only boost Norwich's ability to attract the very best bands, of which B&S are one.