- Album Reviews

Belle & Sebastian – The Away Days Live in Istanbul

If I was wondering how the bookish songwriting genius of Stuart Murdoch and his precise, sometimes twee-sounding twelve – twelve! – piece would go down in Kucukciftlik (‘small farm’, Turkish translation-lovers) Park in the dead centre of Istanbul, I needn’t have worried. The production, setting, sound and organisation were second to none, the stage itself seemingly bigger than the Pyramid at Glastonbury (and a lot less pretentious), with far less corporate branding than other live events in Turkey, replete with ‘live’ chinese food, and unobtrusive, foot-tapping security.

Local heroes The Away Days charm the Maçka masses with their own brand of Doves-meets-The Vaccines space-indie. Frontman Oğuzcan Ozen cuts a passionately imposing figure, his young-Neil Young intensity carrying the band’s amibitions on his broad shoulders. Tracks ‘Rumours’ and closer ‘Galaxies’ in particular reverberate around the park with overlaid, shimmering guitar effects here and Rapture-style disco beats there, all held together with a solid love of melody through Ozen.

The List recently declared Belle & Sebastian the best Scottish band of all time. What, even better than Deacon Blue? But the fact is they have been plying their literate, perfectionist sound in ever-increasing circles since the height/death of Britpop in 1996. Murdoch can’t seem to decide whether he’d rather be in the library or local gay bar these days, but the adoring (and they really are adoring) crowd are double-charmed by his Glaswegian-inflected ‘merhaba Istanbul, burada olmaktan mutluyuz!’ (hello Istanbul, we’re happy to be here). After nearly two decades, Murdoch is quite the arena showman, coming down to the VIP pit and selecting lucky female students to dance with him on the stage.

Far from the fey indie of lore, much has been written about the new, Trevor Horn-ed up B&S; trumpets, strings, synths often pile up for a massive, celebratory blast of celebration and joy. ‘The Boy With The Arab Strap’ actually brings a tear to the eye with the controlled-crowd invasion by invitation – very Murdoch, that. It’s a brilliantly balanced set, the band perfectly pushing and pulling the necessary emotional buttons and strings, and when they return for encores of ‘The State We’re In’ (from debut album ‘Tigermilk’), and finally wave goodbye after ‘Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying’, it feels like a true victory. Teşekkürler, Stuart.

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