Two of indie's best rock the Mann

Belle & Sebastian traipsed through their back-catalogue of joyful melodies at the Mann on Wednesday.
Belle & Sebastian traipsed through their back-catalogue of joyful melodies at the Mann on Wednesday. (REUBEN COX)
Posted: July 13, 2013

The rain held off. The temperature was warm but comfortable, the music breezy and familiar, as the Mann Center kicked off the second year of the Skyline Stage series Wednesday night, with two of indie rock's most beloved bands, Belle & Sebastian and Yo La Tengo.

Glasgow's Belle & Sebastian haven't released an album since 2010's Write About Love. (They have a collection of B-sides and remixes coming next month.) This lack of new material meant they would "traipse through the Belle & Sebastian back-catalogue," as leader Stuart Murdoch said.

They're a band that traipses: Their carefully arranged songs build on '60s orchestral pop, blue-eyed soul, and the gentle side of the Velvet Underground's strummy guitar rock. Even as Murdoch sings his wry tales of melancholy lovers and misunderstood loners, the music is joyfully melodic.

The 13-piece band included a string quartet and trumpet player, and songs such as "My Wandering Days Are Over" (from their 1996 debut, Tigermilk) and "Judy and the Dream of Horses" (from the classic If You're Feeling Sinister, also from '96) swelled into delightfully grand climaxes.

Murdoch is a charming front man. He chatted about the beautiful view of the city from the hilltop venue and about how Glasgow substituted for Philadelphia in the Brad Pitt film World War Z. He acknowledged Philebrity's tradition of Belle & Sebastian Dance Parties and brought 15 young fans on stage to dance to "The Boy with the Arab Strap" and "Legal Man" (it looked like the dance scene from the Peanuts Christmas show).

The 90-minute set included a few soft spots - the maudlin "Lord Anthony," the strained "We Are The Sleepyheads" - but from the Thin Lizzy-quoting "I'm a Cuckoo" to the disco workout "Your Cover's Blown," it was also wonderfully diverse.

As was Yo La Tengo's hour-long opening set. "We're doing our park songs, our picnic numbers," said Ira Kaplan. The long-standing, instrument-switching Hoboken trio mixed songs from this year's excellent Fade with older selections that ranged from the gently ruminative "Autumn Sweater" and quiet "Big Day Coming" to the hypnotic, wild instrumental "Blue Line Swinger."

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