Belle and Sebastian are a band of beautiful binaries. At moments, the collective, hailing from Glasgow and forming another lifetime ago back in 1996, is harrowingly divine. Their debut album, Tigermilk, is ripe with tempered melodies and upbeat anthems. Their 2003 record, Dear Catastrophe Waitress, veers toward intense introspection practically whispered over a stream of guitar chords.
For their Boston performance, last night (August 2) at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, they would ravel both sides together to make a memorable evening despite the thunderstorms under the tent by the harbor.
Opener Andrew Bird, whose debut solo album Music of Hair also dates back to ’96, basked in his glorious refrain. As the rain proceeded to fall, Bird only increased his energy as he juggled playing violin and guitar with providing illuminating vocals. Songs like “Three White Horses” and “Valleys of the Young” stood bravely in their potency; “Fiery Crash” and closing song “Fake Palindromes” possessed a more vibrant sort of energy.
Once Belle and Sebastian graced the stage, everyone in attendance and rose to their feet with a kind of palpable urgency that wasn’t fully there for the openers, which also included an early set by Porches. But their energy — which would either be stifled from the vastness of a seven-piece facet doing their best to synchronize themselves or float effortlessly through their set — turned out to be a little bit of both. Initially, trying to keep up with Belle and Sebastian was distracting, but frontman Stuart Murdoch proved to be the nucleus that the rest of the band centered around.
Like Bird, he also juggled singing, playing guitar, as well as the keyboards. But as he laughed his way between songs with cheeky crowd banter, it was clear that their cohesion grew stronger the longer they were onstage. The lightness of “Sukie in the Graveyard” was countered with the weight of “Piazza, New York Catcher.” Tigermilk’s “I Don’t Love Anyone” came off as more vintage than dated; they also closed with “The State I’m In” from that same album.
Amidst the joviality from both Bird and Belle and Sebastian was a sobering reality: The bands that have seemingly been around forever (yet still sound fresh and innovative) are in their 21st year of making music. And quite frankly, were are still thankful to have them.