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July 27, 2017

Belle and Sebastian: why not to bring a motorcycle on stage

Belle and Sebastian will surprise and preview new songs at the Mann

Who knows what Stuart Murdoch and his arty bandmates will do when they hit the stage? The unique Belle and Sebastian are always unpredictable. There is no band quite like Belle and Sebastian. The charming Scottish act crafts delicate, quirky and at times gorgeous tunes, which are an amalgam of folk and ‘60s flavored pop.

“It all starts with Stuart,” drummer Richard Colburn said while calling from his Glasgow home. “There’s no one like him.”

Colburn is referring to Stuart Murdoch, the band’s refreshingly animated singer-songwriter, who pens compelling, literate and, at times, amusing lyrics. The charismatic Belle and Sebastian frontman engages the audience. It’s not uncommon for Murdoch to hand out trinkets to fans or decide that an opening act should deliver one of his band’s songs in the middle of his group’s set.

“I love being in a band with Stuart since you never know what will happen,” said Colburn.

But sometimes, Murdoch goes too far.

“Stuart takes chances and lives in the moment. He surprises us sometimes.”

Murdoch got carried away with theatrics 20 years ago when the offbeat songsmith attempted to ride a motorcycle onstage.

“That was great in theory,” Colburn says.

“The only problem is that Stuart doesn’t know how to ride a motorbike. Fortunately, when he was on the edge of the stage, the motorbike stalled. If it didn’t stall and he made one wrong move, the motorbike and Stuart are out in the audience. It would have been like (late stunt performer) Evel Knievel. So much for starting off the show with a cover of “Leader of the Pack.”

Belle and Sebastian doesn’t need to perform other recording artist’s material. Belle and Sebastian have recorded 10 albums and recently recorded a pair of EPs. The first of the (as yet unnamed) EPs will be released in August.

Expect the band to preview a few of the new songs from initial releases when the band performs Thursday, Aug. 3, at the Mann Center. They'll break down the show in segments. 

“It’ll be four different parts, with about five songs each,” Colburn said. 

“Each will have a different mood when we come back to Philadelphia.”

It’s not easy for Belle and Sebastian to come up with a set list. 

“We have so much to draw from,” Colburn said. “We can’t play everything.”

Belle and Sebastian will pull out the set list from the band’s last area performance, which was at the Tower Theater in 2015. 

“We don’t want to repeat ourselves,” Colburn said. 

“We always want the show in Philadelphia to be special. We always get up for shows there, as well as in New York and Boston. There is something about those cities.”

Perhaps Murdoch will surprise his fans with some unusual behavior. 

“A big reason to come out to our show is to see what Stuart will do,” Colburn said. “Whatever he does will be memorable.”

Belle and Sebastian will co-headline with Andrew Bird Thursday, Aug. 3, at the Mann Center, 52nd Street & Parkside Avenue, Philadelphia. Porches will open. Tickets are $39.50 and $79.50. Show time is 7 p.m. Call 215-546-7900 for information or click here