I had a lovely, cheese-filled lunch today with some very good friends. We talked about music, as we often do, and Belle and Sebastian were mentioned.
This reminded me that I wrote something about the B and S gig at The Roundhouse in 2011 and given I am meant to be “blogging” in earnest at the moment, I thought perhaps it would be worth reposting it here. Not that it has anything to do with filmmaking.
So, here is. A straight man’s love letter to another straight man. With a guitar:
When Stuart Murdoch walked out of the darkness on to the stage of the Roundhouse and took up a position not more than five metres away from me, I can honestly say that my eyes filled with what would probably be best described as tears. Dressed in an orange anorak (or maybe some sort of tracksuit top – although I was very close, the lighting was both colourful and minimal) worn over a pleasingly indie black and white striped jumper, he strapped on an acoustic guitar and greeted his audience warmly. Stuart said that he was going to “ease us in gently” and then began to sing.
I was surprised.
I was happy for a day in 1975.
This was almost too much. A silly, childish grin broke out across my face and I slipped in to the sort of warm reverie that I suspect was shared by many of the hundreds of people who had shuffled in to that old railway shed to project their love towards the incomparable “Belle and Sebastian”.
I have been physically close to very few of my heroes. My sister and I were pretty near to the front at a Divine Comedy gig last year in Bristol and we swapped happy faces during Neil Hannon’s typically witty and entertaining performance; I once queued up with my friends Rupert and Mark to have a book signed by Terry Gilliam in a bookshop in Covent Garden (the bearded Gilliam was efficiently polite and remarked that my surname was quite similar to his – which although true was perhaps a little bathetic in the circumstances). I once thought I saw Michael Palin across a busy road in Hampstead. And Kris and I once had a beer in the same pub as Thierry Henry. Not that Henry is any way a hero to me but this just goes to show the paucity of my anecdotes in this area.
Other than this, I am left with Michael Stipe at the other end of Cardiff Arms Park; Simon Armitage behind a dais and many metres below me in the Methodists Hall in Westminster; Tom Stoppard rushing out of the bookshop at the National Theatre and John Prescott literally elbowing me out of the way outside Parliament (again, Prescott is a long way from hero status in my life although I did admire him for punching the egg-thrower during the 2001 election campaign. If indeed it was in 2001. It may have been later. I can’t be bothered to look it up).
Whereas my friends Kris and Chris once interviewed the Chuckle Brothers. It is over ten years later I am still jealous.
So standing so close to Stuart Murdoch at what turned out to be a glorious Belle and Sebastian gig, albeit not in the front row and behind the security cordon, felt as intimate as I had ever been with someone who has bought me such happiness over the years. Belle and Sebastian were the soundtrack of my early twenties. A band to unite the awkward and liberate the obtuse. A band that made it okay to wear cord and read (and write bad) poetry. It seems trite when written down like that but it is true. One night after a meal in a cheap Italian on the Uxbridge Road and a visit to the out-of-hours-booze newsagent, Kris and I went back to our shared house and made a list of our ten favourite B and S songs. In order. Like the chart rundown I used to tape on Sunday nights in the late eighties. And then we played them. And it was brilliant.
(I didn’t have a girlfriend at the time. Kris did but she was very tolerant).
At the gig Stuart would not have seen me. But I saw him and in amongst a few thousand rival love-stories projected on to the band in Camden that night, mine was as soppy, sincere and joyous as all of the others.
I love Youtube. I hate it too but sometimes I LOVE IT. I have just found a video of the very moment I was writing about! You can probably hear me screaming in the crowd. Alright, you probably can’t but I was there, I was there!
And here is another song from the same gig. The brilliant “Me and the Major” from “If you’re feeling sinister”. They played this before waving and going offstage. And then of course they returned for the inevitable but utterly splendid encore.