The Upstate Life
The Upstate Life

Monday, March 06, 2006
TUL's Take: The New Pornographers and Belle & Sebastian @ 9:30 Club

Yesterday was truly a great day. Not only did Maryland squeak one by Virginia and reach .500 in the ACC, but The Upstate Life finally attended his first concert this year. We arrived at the 9:30 Club a little after 8pm and were able to find a great location smack dab in the center of the floor. The New Pornographers took the stage around 8:30 and proceeded to kick things off with "Twin Cinema", the title track from their latest LP. This was the first time I've seen the band live, and despite the absence of Neko Case and Dan Bejar (Destroyer), I still felt that they put on an entertaining show. Neko's touring substitute, Kathryn Calder, was unfortunately suffering from laryngitis throughout the entire evening, so while the harmonies that were so dominant on their albums wasn't entirely present, I personally felt the Pornographers were able to compensate for their bandmate's limitations during the hour-long set.

What I really enjoyed about their performance was how freeform it became. Rather than performing a structured selection of songs, the group turned the 9:30 Club into open request night. The band engaged in some humorous banter which included Newman checking his cell phone to see how much time they had left and informing the crowd that they really didn't have a setlist. He then proceeded to encourage requests from the audience throughout the rest of the night, honoring calls for "July Jones" and "Slow Descent." Overall I felt they were an excellent opener and makes me truly regret missing their show back in the fall when the true lineup was in tow.

Just like The New Pornographers, this was my first time experiencing the Scottish ensemble of Belle & Sebastian live. However, unlike Carl Newman and Co., they proved to leave an indelible mark on my concert-going experience. They started the show with classic "The Stars of Track and Field" from their quintessential album, If You're Feeling Sinister. The Life Pursuit, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite LPs of '06 thus far, quickly made its appearance in live form with "Another Sunny Day" and pop standout "Funny Little Frog". Not only were they were able to replicate their sound from the album, but the group somehow managed to take it to a whole other level. Honestly, they sounded flawless up onstage. Another thing I loved was how the band managed to throw in so much of their older material during the nearly two hour set. "Jonathan David", "String Bean Jean", and "A Century of Fakers" were just some of the many older songs performed last night. The true highlight of the evening was their rendition of "Your Cover's Blown" from the Books EP. Alongside "Legal Man", which unfortunately wasn't performed last night despite my many pleadings during the encore, it's probably one of my favorite Belle & Sebastian tracks due to its intricate musical and lyrical structure. The band executed the track impeccably, even incorporating the two-tone cowbell over the addictive opening bass line.

What was so wonderful about Belle & Sebastian's act was their constant interaction with the audience. Even though everyone in the crowd was cognizant of the fact that they're superstars of the indie music realm, they gave off such a humble aura you would've never known they sold out the venue two nights in a row in a little less than ten minutes. Stuart asking for a B&S shirt from the merch booth which turned out to be a women's small v-neck and putting it on was one of the most unique, funniest moments I've witnessed at a show. The dude could've been doing somersaults for ten minutes and the crowd still would've eaten it up. The band ultimately capped the night off with "Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying", not the most appropriate closer in my opinion, but at least it sounded great. If you're not able to attend tonight's show at the 9:30, NPR will be streaming the entire performance live from their All Songs Considered website. I honestly wouldn't mind going again tonight simply because it was that good, but with a two hour 24 tonight, I just can't quit you Jack Bauer. Setlist via 9:30 Forum:

Stars of Track and Field
Another Sunny Day
Funny Little Frog
A Century of Fakers
Sukie in the Graveyard
Electronic Renaissance
We Are the Sleepyheads
To Be Myself Completely
Dress Up In You
Meat and Potatoes
I Don't Love Anyone
Your Covers Blown
Simple Things
Jonathan David
I'm a Cuckoo
String Bean Jean
White Collar Boy
The State I Am In
Fox in the Snow
Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying

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