I spent 6 hours homeless in Bexhill to bring you this review. Bexhill-on-Sea, a small town in East Sussex with a population of 40,000 has barely any trains running past 8 p.m. and is encompassed by very few bed-and-breakfasts that require weeks of booking in advance. There isn’t much of a nightlife either, leaving it a very quiet, desolate place. This is in no way a complaint to this beautiful seaside town, (as my lack of planning was mostly at fault), but I can’t help but question; out of all places and venues in the UK, why has Belle and Sebastian chose to play here?
The cult classic, Glaswegian six-piece once played a sold-out show at the legendary 18,000-capacity Hollywood Bowl, so reverting back to a small venue without an official album to promote was an unexpected move. It may have been that the band feel most comfortable in humble settings, which evokes their ‘no-publicity-photos-because-we’re-too-camera-shy’ beginnings, but 18 years have now passed, transforming them into stage-owning virtuosos.
Despite their successful music career, the group appear in meek t-shirt-and-jeans, looking like someone’s friendly relatives at a family BBQ, rather than an actual concert. ‘I’m A Cuckoo’ and ‘The Stars of Track and Field’ sound as timeless and revitalised as ever, reinforcing their staple bookish, lo-fi pop sound.
They’re all impressive multi-instrumentalists too; Stuart Murdoch switching smoothly from electric guitar to piano to bongos, Sarah Martin sporting the violin and flute, Bobby Kildea from bass to guitar in an obviously relaxed manner. They’re in no rush, as if there’s nowhere else they would rather be, and their frivolous presence proves it.
Throughout the gig, a lady in the back repeatedly yells, “EXCUSE ME!” during the transitions, until Murdoch comically sighs, “WHAT? My god, you must be distressed!” During another song transition, whilst waiting for Stevie Jackson to tune his guitar, Murdoch starts singing a cutesy rendition of The Beatles’ ‘You Can’t Do That’, and the rest of the band jump in sync for a minute until they burst into laughter.
During ‘The Boy with the Arab Strap’, they invite the crowd to dance on stage with them and end with ‘Judy and the Dream of Horses’ recalling lines like, “Judy never felt so good except when she was sleeping”, highlighting their hard-hitting, imaginative storytelling, filled with colourful trumpet, flute, and violin bursts.
They sneak in a few of their new songs, but subtly, because they’ve already made several classic pop records, and don’t feel the need to prove themselves anymore. This attitude translates to every aspect of their performance and their career, making everything they do a quality performance. Definitely worth being homeless for.