Review: Belle and Sebastian at Portsmouth Guildhall

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Frankly, it should be on prescription. I defy anyone to go and see Belle and Sebastian play and not come out, well, happier than when they went in.

It’s the whole package. It’s the friendliness of a band who seem to genuinely like each other’s company, and enjoy messing around, discussing the density of Portsmouth’s population and our hovercraft.

It’s in Stuart Murdoch’s bouncing stage presence - for an hour and a half he only stops moving if he’s playing a keyboard, sometimes dancing with himself seemingly out of sheer enjoyment.

And then, obviously, there’s the music. They’re tight throughout, and have got two decades’ worth of songs to choose from. It means that newer tracks such as the opening Nobody’s Empire sit side by side with those from a decade or more back, such as the fanfare that is I’m a Cuckoo, and less famous ones, such as early EP track Dog on Wheels, which thrums along until brought to a close by a Spanish-sounding trumpet solo.

And if you’re not gladdened by the sight of a dozen members of the audience having the time of their lives after being invited to dance on the stage during the bobbling, bouncing pop of The Boy with the Arab Strap and the 60s’ girl-pop swing of Legal Man then you are hard-hearted indeed.

But for me, while the synth-y direction of a lot of the new album is great, and the sound of a band revitalised, 20 years of unabashed fanboydom will always be buoyed by nostalgia. So when There’s Too Much Love comes to its fade-out, full of vocal harmonies, a chord sequence ascending to the sky and a string quintet powering a Northern Soul-like rhythm that demands handclaps and finger-clicks...I’m definitely grinning.