Belle & Sebastian, Catherine Feeny
The idea of an evening dining out on a feast of indie twee pop veterans Belle and Sebastian is a very inviting prospect indeed. The Glaswegian dandies have had the needle firmly implanted in the groove of my record player in recent times and in tonight's show this particular ATL scribe gets his first taste of the live show.
Entrée for the night comes in the form of Catherine Feeny, a Portland based acoustic artist joined on stage by her multi instrumental husband. Their act is that of quirky acoustic ditties cleverly written, intelligently arranged and incredible harmonies. Feeny is effortlessly engaging and does well to encapsulate a very sparse, cold Ulster Hall.
Feeny's attempt to rile the audience into a sing-a-long so early in the night is met with varying success. You have to admire the guts it must take to try and engage and involve a chilly, sober Northern Irish audience. The only notable low point of another wise fantastic performance was the cinematic love stares she and her husband shared while bent around one microphone. I completely believed the emotion and passion on show was authentic but it didn't make it look any less like Sonny and Cher, boak.
This ATL reviewer has been chomping at the bit to see Belle & Sebastian for quite some time so expectations and anticipation ran in equal parts. The Glaswegian Kings of twee got off to a deceptive start with 'I'm a Cuckoo' and 'Step into My Office Baby' fooling ATL into thinking that this could be a contender for gigs of the year. This initial burst of tuneful velocity was firmly quashed with a horrendous reworking of 'Piazza New York Catcher' that sucked the soul from an other wise tremendously evocative song and then trudged on in unimpressive, bland fashion for the remainder of the first half of the show.
Front man Stuart Murdoch pirouetted, pranced and was ever the flamboyant front man, even asking an audience member to apply mascara to him during fan favourite 'Lord Anthony'. The audience participation from Murdoch reached crescendo when he invited six members of the audience to join the band on stage to provide dancing duties during 'Dirty Dream #2' and 'The Boy with the Arab Strap'. This admirable reach out to the fans was quite commendable and cute and acted well as a side plot to an otherwise meandering performance.
The Ulster Hall is a strange beast, a hard venue for acts to master and tonight Belle & Sebastian fell short of the mark. The three quarters full hall was treated to a fairly lifeless set list and it breaks the heart of ATL. Tonight we were offered little that we couldn't achieve in our own home with the Belle and Sebastian discography, some mascara and a flamboyant jumper. This gig poses the question 'Is it Wicked Not to Care?'