Belle and Sebastian, Lower Dens at OPEN, Norwich 8 May 2015
Twenty four hours took me through a whole range of emotions, an exhilarating, exciting and electric gig at Jug Jaw’s Beat Club was followed by a surreal change of mood at a very slow and frankly boring few hours waiting for the declaration for Norwich South at St. Andrews. As I got home in the morning it was becoming clear that nationally the result was in my view depressingly and shockingly disastrous. I spent most of the day in shocked silence quite frankly in not much of a mood for a gig but I’d enthusiastically bought my ticket for this gig many months ago and wasn’t going to waste it. The gloomy dark and wet journey into the city in the rain the perfect reflection of my mood.
Thankfully I bumped into friends as soon as I arrived at a very welcoming OPEN and my mood was soon lifting. I was chatting with a friend and didn’t catch too much of Lower Dens but some other friends said they were excellent.
The last time I saw Belle and Sebastian was at Bestival a couple of years ago where they were the highlight of the festival for me with a superb set and an astonishing rapport with the audience.
Before they took the stage there was a screening of a 1980s film about Glasgow, oddly compelling and doing little to curb my impulses to move to Scotland, a place I have great fondness for. When the band did come onstage it was to cheers and hollers before launching into a set of 90 minutes or so of classics old and new. Perhaps through sensitivity or, more likely, to just ignore the election for a while it was not mentioned much (although there were some great digs at Cameron and Clegg) and to my amazement they did succeed in creating a truly joyous and defiant party atmosphere. The band themselves probably had more reason to celebrate than we did but we needed lifting back off the floor and Belle and Sebastian stretched out that hand to us and lifted us back up. It was brilliant. The band have an audience as adoring and loyal as The Smiths had. They seemed pleased and impressed with Norwich’s readiness to party with them, spotting the lad dressed as a Funny Little Frog Stuart relayed the story of crossed wires and how he’d been expecting to see someone in the audience dressed as a diving frogman and of course the band then launched into Funny Little Frog as the lad in question danced in the throng on someone’s shoulders.
This band’s back catalogue is of such a high calibre they could play entirely different sets each night for a week and it would be brilliant each time. The funny little frog was invited onstage as were some girls for backing harmonies and handclaps and by the time they played The Boy With the Arab Strap the stage was full of dancers from the audience. It was absolutely lovely. The mood can be seen in this lovely video captured by Mark Heybourne:
The projections at the back of the stage were also superb, interspersed with introductions and at one point the opening of an episode of “From Norwich – The Quiz of the Week” and the Sale of the Century titles. It was surreal to watch the band watching this even more amazed than the audience – really funny!
It was an absolutely special gig, it was healing, defiant, fun and made everyone present feel connected. One of my favourites of the year so far, definitely. In a day I’d gone from buzzing with happiness to the depths at the prospects for the next five years. Belle and Sebastian, their energy and music, the brilliant audience and great atmosphere at Open put me back together again and I cycled back home in the rain with a big smile on my face. Thank you.
Review and photos by Richard Shashamane (c) 2015