Belle a beauty

Sensitive Scots pop pretties hold Kool Haus crowd spellbound

BELLE AND SEBASTIAN at the Kool Haus, Wednesday, May 8. Tickets: $35. Attendance: 2,000. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNNN

After bailing on Toronto fans two and a half times (the half was a secret show no one knew about) in succession, the wacky Scottish art bums in Belle and Sebastian must’ve known they had to measure up during their Kool Haus gig. They did. Putting the lie the rumours of morose and aloof performance personas, the sizable crew (up to nine of them onstage at different points throughout the set) were downright jovial.

Well, except for singer/instrumentalist Isobel Campbell, who has the bitchy prima donna vibe down pat. She spent the set scowling at would-be paramours and squeezing out her breathy harmonies with a pained expression, although she briefly broke the facade to pose sweetly avec tambourine for a stageside camera.

From the opening notes of The State I Am In, a track off the early Tigermilk disc, the crowd was rapt, shouting desperate requests during every inter-song pause and singing along under their breath.

There were moments of brilliance: a peppy version of Sleep The Clock Around, with jazzy keyboard glissandos and sped-up almost breakbeats, and a few gorgeous preview tracks from their forthcoming Storytelling album (inspired by the dreary Todd Solondz flick). Fans were flamenco-clapping with the hula/Spanish-guitar-inflected Wandering Along, and Fuck This Shit, a new instrumental featuring mournful harmonica morphing into loungey, piano-driven swing, was killer.

Too bad the sightlines at the Kool Haus are atrocious, and most of the tunes were note-for-note renditions of the album versions, which left me with that vague I’ve-been-cheated feeling.

I could’ve done without the mauling of I Can’t Get No Satisfaction delivered by the flustered girl invited onstage by frontman Stuart Murdoch. Folks don’t pay to hear no karaoke.

But you’ve gotta have balls to refuse to do an encore. When the lights came up after an abrupt ending, the indie kids looked stunned and pretty pissed off.

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