Belle & Sebastian and Friends @ The Tramway, 30 Apr

Two men entreating even the twee-est kids to catch the flow and let their hearts skip a beat

Article by Sean Michaels | 15 Jun 2006

It's an admittedly great idea. Borrow the Tramway, a theatre complex built in an aging warehouse, and give it to Belle & Sebastian for a day. Throw money at them, too, and instruct the group to invite some friends. Bands, art, dance, DJs, international Expo archivists – the works.

And bless my soul, did they ever pull it off. DJs like David Holmes and Andy Votel spun old soul and vintage folk, B&S album covers plastered the walls, the masses devoured paninis and attended dance workshops. And inside two halls, bands played.

Although The Concretes' (2/5) hot, dusty sound was too Sunday morning for a big room on a Sunday afternoon, and the usually outstanding Lucky Luke (3/5) flagged under the lights, from then on the day was one pleasure after another. Vashti Bunyan (4/5) played her first ever Scottish gig, several decades too late, bringing her songs to life with an astonishing grace: they were somehow less pretty, up there, more simply vulnerable and true. Alasdair Roberts (4/5) played an Elizabethan lute tune on electric guitar, and although I had seen him play mere days before it was this performance that took my breath away; blood-red love-songs in a black box room.

Just as the Belle fans began to crowd the stage, Edan (3/5) and Dagha came strutting out, big-haired and grinning, with splayed feet, fast rhymes and shud-shuddering work on the decks. There was a Nico sample, theremin, yellow flowers thrown into the crowd. Two men entreating even the twee-est kids to catch the flow and let their hearts skip a beat.

And finally Belle and Sebastian (5/5). They were a band transformed: no longer the shambolic mumblers of the 1990s, but also greatly changed from their Glasgow gigs only a few months ago. Whereas then there was a sense of peacock-preening, Stuart Murdoch merely playing the role of Stuart Murdoch, on Sunday night the songs were wholly inhabited – sung with feeling, with yearning, and often with joy. Fresh off a North American tour the band was tight as roller-skates. Stevie Jackson skipped with dandy glee, basslines met trumpet-lines and a ring-ding-ding xylophone. There was glory in Funny Little Frog; a sweet, spangled beauty in Woman's Realm. And as Cuckoo's opening chords rang out, guitars like yellow streamers that looped around the room, there was no getting away from it: the band had earned this audience, had earned its handclaps, had earned this Glasgow night. [Sean Michaels]