On The List :: Belle & Sebastian @ Williamsburg Waterfront [9.30.10]

In the most telling moment of the evening Belle & Sebastian front man, Stuart Murdoch invited several fans on stage to help clap along with "Write About Love," a song off their new LP of the same name. In the twee version of affirmative action, Murdoch stared into the audience selecting audience members based on their outward appearance. "Well, you're the tallest ... and you, you with the 'fro ... and you in the yellow." The result was an eclectic, if profoundly anti-rhythmic group clustered to stage left. They ran the gamut from chubby to skinny, ebullient and maudlin, animated and awkward, like a musically well-heeled reality television cast.

At the final chords of "Write About Love," Murdoch stared at his collection and said, "Oh, you aren't done yet," before breaking into the first strains of "The Boy With The Arab Strap." The group of super-fans moved to center stage as Murdoch retreated to a piano behind them. To the uninitiated observer, the band now looked like a mess of a fans fronting Belle & Sebastian, as the real band played back-up. These seven strangers spun in place, imitating Murdoch's springing dance steps, at least one with hands jammed awkwardly in his pockets and another impulsively grabbing a tambourine.

The real front man would eventually leave his piano to come dance with his followers in one of those explosive, "I'm okay! You're okay!" moments. It was winning and Murdoch took care to hug each audience member-turned-contributor as they left the stage, but not before bestowing medals around their necks in a weird, last-day-of-camp-everyone's-a-winner pathos. It is the essence of the band, the awkward inner-workings, the liberating weirdness of it all, these anthems for people who sat in the back of the library and now stood in front of 5,000 friends. Murdoch noted earlier in the evening that he wished for an enormous mirror so we could see the New York skyline behind us. In truth, he would have liked us to see him and ourselves at the same time, weird and all. (Setlist)

09 The Boy With The Arab Strap by Nathan Stern

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