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Belle & Sebastian gives pop music a great name

Orpheum Theatre, Boston, Nov. 13, 2003

By Jeffrey B. Remz

BOSTON - Echoes of '60s style Brit pop - light, airy and fun music - is quite and live well in the 21st century in the guise of Belle & Sebastian.

The Scottish conglomeration, led ostensibly by lead singer and focal point Stuart Murdoch, has enjoyed a strong following in Beantown for a while. And thanks to their 110-minute show before an almost sold-out crowd, it was so sure easy to see why.

B&S is not a play by the numbers kind of musical endeavor. There are many many twists and turns in the music, often within the same song. Murdoch might start a song backed only by his own acoustic guitar in a very laid back, spare style with his high-pitched vocals leading the way. But soon the trumpet of Mick Cooke may be ever present or the four, sometimes five-piece violin section may kick in to create a full-blown arrangement.

While B&S in the past has been a bit on the down side, the new disc ("Dear Catastrophe Waitress") - B&S played about two-thirds of it - is more upbeat, and the music also reflects that with such musically uptempo songs as "Step Into My Office, Baby" and "You Don't Send Me" from "Dear Catastrophe Waitress."

And Murodch et al have a good stage presence as well, enjoying themselves all the while. Appreciative of the crowd's response, Murdoch also tried to win their hearts by talking about, gulp, the Red Sox. Murdoch received some boos before proclaiming how he rooted for them, but it's "Wait 'til next year."

However, how seriously can we take Murdoch when they also do a song, "Piazza, New York Catcher"? (okay, it's actually a relationship song)

The spotlight (the lighting was excellent with lots of interesting color mixes and use of balls of white light on several songs spread in the background. Unfortunately, the lights also were blinding depending on where one sat) may be on Murdoch, but this is one smart band playing music that is visually and aurally quite tasty.

Brooklyn-based trio Rasputina opened with quite an interesting mix of their own. They doubtlessly are the only band of its type comprised of two cellists and a drummer. It is amazing to consider what a full-bodied sound Melora Creager, who also handled all lead vocals save one song, and Zoe Keating get out of their instruments. With the cellists trading off of each other. It's hard to believe there isn't electric guitars or tapes thereof lurking back there someplace.

They closed the well-received set with covers of Heart's "Barracuda" and Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll," and they put their own stamp on both.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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