music review

Belle and Sebastian's light, Scottish songs lift the audience at DAR

Shuffle: Belle and Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch couldn't help but dance.
Shuffle: Belle and Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch couldn't help but dance. (Kyle Gustafson For The Washington Post)

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Folks whose musical taste leans toward Scotch, hold the rock, packed DAR Constitution Hall Thursday for Belle & Sebastian.

Not a fist was pumped or a head banged while Glasgow's finest and feyest pop purveyors were onstage. Grins and toe-tapping abounded, however. In all, it was as if a long and wholly liberating episode of "Glee" was taking place.

This cast of nerdily attractive characters is fronted by Stuart Murdoch, who can neither dance well nor keep himself from dancing. And, as B&S went into old favorites such as "I'm a Cuckoo," the catchiest of the many Smiths-meets-"A Mighty Wind" gems in the band's canon, the fans couldn't stop their feet from shuffling, either.

The group's decidedly European musical blend is lighter than an Olsen twin when compared to most music played on American radio. But B&S made a couple attempts to bond with its sizable stateside audience through Yank references that were equally jocky and forced. "Piazza, New York Catcher" featured an admirer's warblings about a beefcake ballplayer. The lyrics betray less knowledge about baseball ("The catcher hits for .318") than lust ("Oh elope with me in private and we'll set something ablaze!"), but the song's melody and skiffle beat overpower such shortcomings. Murdoch also tossed footballs -- American footballs! -- into the crowd, but not far or with any athletic aplomb. (Why not croon about Beckham and kick soccer balls?)

During "Sleep the Clock Around," as much of the audience helped out Murdoch on the money lines -- "Everybody is happy, they are glad that they came!" -- a young fan ran toward the stage with a sign: "Elope with us, Belle and Sebastian!" Murdoch jumped into the crowd and walked her down the aisle arm-in-arm. Their relationship wasn't going to go anywhere, but, as with everybody else in the room, just being close to Murdoch left her happy and glad she came.

-- Dave McKenna

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