I started my recent Augie March review by saying that I'm not a big fan of the Hi-Fi Bar as a venue. Well let me start this review by saying that the Forum is one of the best venues in Melbourne, if not the best. It's so beautiful and scenic; it has high ceilings, excellent ventilation and impressive acoustics. Even if you aren't enjoying the music, you can appreciate the impressive Roman style architecture or stare up at the "perfect night sky" blue ceiling. Yes, I love this venue; it truly makes others pale in comparison.
I last saw Glaswegian band Belle & Sebastian two years ago, at the Palais Theatre in St Kilda. It was a sit-down gig, which obviously has its benefits (great for letting the legs rest) but also has some negative aspects (losing the intimacy and the "connection" with the band that you only get from standing up close). The Forum eschews ticketed standing vs. sitting segregation; instead you can gauge your mood and sit further back, or if you feel like it you can stand up and get closer to the stage. After a bit of debating in our group (Pete, Simone, Mark and myself) we decided to stand. It was a good decision.
Opening with The state I am in from their debut album Tigermilk, the band let loose on an impressive two-hour set which covered a good cross-section of their ten-year catalogue (although they notably didn't include any songs from their two least critically acclaimed albums Fold your hands child... and Storytelling). They played most of the songs from their new album The life pursuit, including current singles The blues are still blue and White collar boy, the latter of which frontman Stuart Murdoch used as an opportunity to introduce all the members of the band.
There were some surprise entries in the setlist: early (and uncharacteristic) Tigermilk cut Electronic renaissance being the biggest surprise; others from left-field included stand-alone single Dog on wheels and underrated B-side The loneliness of a middle distance runner. It was great to see the band playing some obscure fan favourites, although being such a cult band means that "obscure fan favourite" will differ widely between fans (much to the disappointment of a couple who were yelling out for My wandering days are over, but never got their wish.)
Stuart Murdoch is a very charismatic frontman, with Stevie Jackson being his loyal Peter Sellers lookalike side-kick. Stuart joked between songs and he kept the banter up with the audience, ensuring that the gig had a personal connection rather than simply a musical one. When Stuart and Stevie invited a couple of ladies on stage to be involved in the "love-triangle" of Jonathan David (or "love-trapezium" as Stevie so eloquantly put it), the whole room erupted in laughter. They are the kind of guys you would like to hang out and have a few drinks with, and it just goes to show how much more there is to a performance than the music. Their fans were also very well-behaved; although there was the smell of ganja in the air, there was a lot less of a "dickhead element" than most gigs from recent memory and there was lots of room to move (surprising considering it was a sellout gig).
They ended their first set with Judy and the dream of horses, before going off stage and coming back for their only encore. At this moment Stuart decided to jump up on the side balcony, pose for a little while with the statues (much to the cheers of the audience) before jumping down and playing a completely surprising cover of Jump by Van Halen with the rest of the band. It was one of those classic "gig moments" which sealed the already fantastic deal for me.
Here's a quick shot of Stuart in action (courtesy of Mark again):
They ended the encore set (and gig) with early classic Get me away from here, I'm dying. For the first time in ages, these were not the words I was thinking as I left the venue at the early finish time of 11pm. My love affair with live music is back on. How long will it last? Watch this space.
Here's a short video from the gig:
Belle & Sebastian - Dog On Wheels [Link Removed]
And here's some choice Belle & Sebastian cuts:
Belle & Sebastian - Seeing Other People [Link Removed]
Belle & Sebastian - Dirty Dream Number Two [Link Removed]
Belle & Sebastian - Another Sunny Day [Link Removed]
All download links will stay up for a week.
UPDATE: Song links removed.