Belle and Sebastian | photo by Kate McCann for WXPN
Belle and Sebastian and Andrew Bird delight generations of fans at Mann Center
“Young and hip and beautiful, that’s what we used to be,” Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch laughed. He was referencing the opening set by Porches, now almost three hours ago at the Mann Center, but spun it into self-depricating self-reflection in the middle of a lively and high-energy set.
It was a night full of many instruments, and attendees got their money’s worth with hours of music during sets by Porches, Andrew Bird and a delightful selection of songs by Belle and Sebastian. After Porches played some of their synthpop jams, including a very deadpan version of “Car,” Andrew Bird took the stage with his band.
An impassioned set began as the four musicians produced overwhelming sound, reverberating off the wood paneling of the venue. Quickly moving into “A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left,” Bird began to embrace the lyrics of his song, flinching and ticking his head while stomping and singing all at once. After a few more tunes, Bird switched over to his violin, passionately playing, whistling and singing. He’s a man capable of multitasking, if nothing else.
“We’re going to move over to the old timey microphone now,” Bird said. The musicians gathered around one stand, now clenching acoustic guitars and Bird, his violin. Each song had new energy from the foursome, as if they were opening the set again and again.
And endless stream of musicians filled in as Belle and Sebastian took the stage. With a full strings section and some horns, Murdoch and co were going to rock the crowd, ready to dance.
“We had an argument on the way here about if we’ve played here before,” Murdoch said, referencing a performance years ago at the Skyline Stage. The band has now outgrown that stage in both numbers and sound. With thirteen musicians total, Belle and Sebastian played a range of old and new. They dusted off the rarely-played “The Model” from Fold Your Hands, Child, You Walk Like a Peasant and even played “Fox in the Snow” from If You’re Feeling Sinister as the crowd envisioned the cool nights to come.
“I’m a Cuckoo” got everyone out of their seats and boogying with Murdoch’s crazy ‘80s dance moves. Misplaced men hitting vape pens yelled out “play Freebird,” and the band steered clear of response. But it was songs off old favorites like “My Wandering Days Are Over” from Tigermilk that had parents hold their children close as if that moment were a reverent initiation into the music world. It probably was.