The first time I ever saw Belle and Sebastian, I was in college and they were still in their “we might just stop and restart a song halfway through” phase. It was not a strong show, and the twee adorability of their first four records rendered itself as sloppy awkwardness. This sprawling Glaswegian band has dealt with personnel changes and a four-year touring hiatus during the mid-aught, where it seemed like they were slowly fading away — but 21 years after the release of Tigermilk and If You’re Feeling Sinister, it’s clear they’ve matured tremendously. Frontman Stuart Murdoch was gabby and confident Friday on Outside Lands‘ Sutro Stage, chattily relating a story about the San Francisco mayor who (indirectly) gave it its name, Adolph Sutro.
The fact that it was warm and nearly sunny made it the sweetest moment of the day, and Murdoch wasn’t done extolling the band’s S.F. connections, putting a huge emphasis on the lyric “San Francisco’s calling us, the Giants and Mets will play / Piazza, New York catcher, are you straight or are you gay?” in the song about the baseball player of that name, and mentioning that the guest trumpet player on “Like Dylan in the Movies” was “from here.” (Sadly, that was the only cut from If You’re Feeling Sinister in the entire set.) They closed on three solid songs, however: “I Don’t Love Anyone,” “The Boy With the Arab Strap” — gloriously extended to eight minutes or more — and the somewhat-obscure “Legal Man,” which was only released as a single in 2000. It was effortlessly charming throughout.
Elsewhere, Big Freedia took over the GastroMagic stage for her…
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