A stone’s throw from Parliament, Stuart Murdoch described his returning band as “the Nice to be Nice Party”. Almost 20 years into their existence, the stereotypes about these comically mild-mannered Scots persist even as their music diversifies, but they’re undeniably heartwarming company.
Never more so than this evening, given an additional layer of sweetness by a marriage proposal between one couple. Murdoch sang Piazza, New York Catcher as they perched beside him on the edge of the stage, then gave his blessing with hugs.
All very lovely, as were the new songs from Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, the band’s first album in five years. They’ve been away while Murdoch wrote and directed a film, and during the absence have embraced disco on The Party Line and a gentle kind of funk on Piggy in the Middle. Perfect Couples, sung by guitarist Stevie Jackson, had an uncharacteristic air of Sympathy for the Devil about it with its bongos and shift towards real volume.
Otherwise, no one was in need of ear protection. I’ve rarely heard 13 people make so little noise. The unusual venue, a Methodist Hall, was partly to blame, but they’re a soft band on record too. During The Boy With the Arab Strap the world’s politest stage invasion began, which didn’t seem to worry the security guards. They must have known there was more chance of a badminton match breaking out than a riot.
The loudest sound of the night was the shouting for requests in the encore. This meek exterior inspires a fierce loyalty, and many people are clearly (quietly) thrilled to have Belle and Sebastian back.