Chicago is filled with old, beautiful concert halls. Some have been refurbished, but most are old in the sense that they are only a mere shadow of their once opulent past. The Congress Theater on Chicago's West Side falls in the latter category. The outside is a bit tattered and the interior is hanging in there OK, but the hall itself is a fantastic place for a show (except for all those damn seats). The last time I was at Congress, I had the pleasure of seeing the comedic stylings of one Dave Chappelle. Belle & Sebastian's expertise differs a bit from Mr. Chappelle's, but the band's charming frontman, Stuart Murdoch's onstage banter had the crowd laughing all night long.
Anticipation was high as the house lights went out, and people shouted things from the crowd, as they would do throughout the night. The band started things off with "Dear Catastrophe Waitress" and "Step Into My Office, Baby," two tracks from their new LP, Dear Catastrophe Waitress, Belle & Sebastian's first offering on Rough Trade. That would set the tone for the evening, as the majority of the tunes were pulled from the new disc.
The band's lighting rig was the coolest I've seen all year. There were 10 or so thin light bars strategically placed all across the stage, both horizontally and vertically. These lights were used on the more '60s-esque, upbeat pop numbers, and they brought a ton of energy to the show. It was a bit blinding at times, but badical (as Jeremy P. Goldstein would say), nonetheless.
Murdoch is quite an engaging personality on-stage. Topics of discussion included, "the" Cubs fan, deep fried Twinkies, deep fried Mars Bars from Glasgow, the solicitation of requests, and a few apologies for "fucking up" the set (though no one would have noticed, as the rest of the band pointed out). As I said before, the indie kids would yell shit out between songs. "I love you" was the number one most shouted phrase of the evening, but a number of unintelligible sayings were heard as well.
The sound in the old Congress Theater was outstanding. With 11 or so people on stage, including violins, a cello, french horn, trumpet, etc., it must have been a difficult task, but the sound guy did a great job. Each piece of the band could be distinguished in the mix and really captured the band's lush, textured sound. Besides the fact that getting there was a pain, the show was great.