I fully expected to hear a night filled with mumbling and complaining. A gin and tonic costs $8 at the Orpheum Theatre, and, after a long, hot summer, I think we all were really excited to go outside, watch some music at Civic Space Park, and actually enjoy ourselves. After both the Crescent Road Trip to Arcosanti and the bulk of Summer Ends Music Festival programming were rained out and moved indoors, we could have all been really grumpy and shitty about last night's venue change, but you try being sad while Belle & Sebastian are playing "Piazza, New York Catcher."
The group played what frontman Stuart Murdoch described as a "smattering of Belle & Sebastian throughout the ages." For a band that's been making solid indie pop for nearly two decades, that might mean you didn't get to hear your absolute favorite B&S song last night (cough, "Step Into My Office, Baby", cough), but they did play a pretty solid representation of the band's discography.
If you didn't recognize one song in particular last night, it was almost definitely "Perfect Couples," which gave the audience a taste of the band's upcoming album. The psychedelic-pop dance number was fronted by Stevie Jackson, but the most memorable part of their performance of the unfamiliar tune was the hypnotic, highly stylized and choreographed video art piece looping on the screen behind the band. On the bright side of things, this visual component was much more effective (i.e. tripped us out) in the theater setting than it likely would've been on an outdoor stage.
After all of the visual and auditory inundation of that performance, B&S dialed it back with "Piazza," as Murdoch sat on the edge of the stage with adoring fans around him. What seemed like the entire crowd joined in a chorus to sing "If You're Feeling Sinister" next. Everyone seemed so happy. Everyone was singing and dancing. It was so uncharacteristic, yet idyllic, for a Phoenix concert experience.
Even though the show's set up changed, it almost seemed like in that moment all of downtown had decided that the rain was a good thing and to just roll with the punches of what very well could have been a general admission seated nightmare. Even Murdoch commented, after talking up Mexican food, that the theater was a pleasant surprise, even though they had been excited to play outside too. While it would've been a good place to start with Civic Space Park concerts, Orpheum doesn't get nearly enough love as a concert venue and past performances there by St. Vincent, Tom Waits, Feist, and more have shown the space's acoustic and ambient potential.
To cement the unbelievably good vibes in the room, Murdoch pulled several audience members on stage to first back up clap and then just dance during three songs. One person turned into five and five turned into 15 as the group wound down the night with "The Boy with the Arab Strap."
As for the encore, one of the night's unintentional highlights came when Jackson mashed up the piano line from John Lennon's "Imagine" with the lyrics to Van Halen's "Jump." However, capping it all off with "Sleep the Clock Around" was pretty good too.
And, if you really wanted to see a show at Civic Space Park, Stateside Presents' Charlie Levy said with all certainty that you can expect something coming on that front very, very, (and yes, a third) very soon.
Critic's Notebook: Last Night: Belle & Sebastian at the Orpheum Theatre Personal Bias: I tend to go for more curmudgeonly music. Everything seeme The crowd: All of those people in town that you vaguely kind of know but you didn't really recognize them because they're actually smiling for once. Weird... Overheard in the crowd: "DEAR CATASTROPHE WAITRESS"--sorry, kids. Didn't happen.
What I remember from the setlist: (in no particular order)
I'm A Cuckoo Expectations Funny Little Frog Perfect Couples If You're Feeling Sinister Piazza, New York Catcher Legal Man Sukie in the Graveyard The Boy with the Arab Strap Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying
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Encore: Jump/Imagine Mashup Sleep the Clock Around
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