Twenty songs, 13 Scots and one proposal

Bart Morrisroe

By any chance is there a chap named Colin in the audience?” Belle and Sebastian vocalist Stuart Murdoch asked the crowd at the Congress Theatre May 11. In response to Murdoch’s curious question, a 20-something in thick-framed glasses and a red blazer climbed onstage and approached the microphone while nervously biting his fingernails. Colin finally mustered up the courage to ask his girlfriend to marry him, and Murdoch happily reported, “She said yes!” to the cheering crowd. This could have been a scene from a cheesy Julia Roberts romantic comedy, but somehow, at this Belle and Sebastian show, it all made sense.

After all, this is the same band that took its name from a French children’s television series and was polite enough to sell “tea towels” featuring a map of their native Scotland for $12 at the merchandise tables on tour. And this night, the reigning kings of chamber pop had a few tricks up their sleeves.

Following a sleep-inducing set by all-too-aptly-named openers Slumber Party, the ensemble that is Belle and Sebastian took the stage to guitarist Stevie Jackson’s harmonica stylings. Once all 13 members of B&S’ touring band, including four violins, a cello, keyboards and trumpet, had hit the stage, the band launched into “Dirty Dream Number Two” off 1998’s The Boy with the Arab Strap.

Singer Murdoch sported a Chicago Cubs jersey and hat as he took the stage. After playing “Like Dylan in the Movies” off 1996’s If You’re Feeling Sinister, he pulled out a baseball from offstage. “I’ve got this baseball in glass with a signature on it,” he said. “Do you know whose it is?” Then, he answered his own question by saying, “Sammy Sosa!” in the same endearing way a two-year-old with a thick Scottish accent would say the slugger’s name.

This quirky display of baseball memorabilia aside, Murdoch and company continued to kick out the jams. They played the new track “Wandering Alone” off their upcoming album Storytelling. Guitarist Jackson sheepishly introduced the song with, “It’s kind of a Spanish song and it would help if you clapped along. How do you feel about that?”

The band hit songs from all of their albums over the course of the night, including singles “Legal Man” and “Dog on Wheels.” The melancholy acoustic guitar with recorders introduction to “Judy and the Dream of Horses” flowed seamlessly into the following upbeat bassline of “The Boy with the Arab Strap.” Some members of the audience were so entranced by the latter number that they got up and began dancing – Peanuts-style – in the aisles.

The best, however, was yet to come.

For the final number, the band went into the most sincere, beautiful song of all time – Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys are Back in Town.” Two indie-pop rebels even began to wave their lighters in the air as the rock gods of B&S played their thunderous guitar riffs. The world felt like it had turned upside down, but somehow, at this Belle and Sebastian show, it all made sense. nyou