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Lee and I saw Belle and Sebastian last night at the Congress Theater in Chicago.

It seems the performances have improved significantly over the course of their tour, since my impression couldn't have been further from the reviews I found of their British shows last month (see this review or this one). A few years ago their live performances really were bad, so I was quite pleasantly surprised in Chicago that it all ran smoothly considering the complexity and variety of the arrangements: songs included five violins, cello, flute, recorders, acoustic, electric and bass guitars, four keyboards, organ, drums, trumpet, and miscellaneous percussion.

The sound level was quite adequate—in fact, a bit too loud for my taste at times. The band appeared far from aloof, and to be enjoying themselves immensely (as was I :-)). The mid-show proposal followed by a performance of of “Judy and the Dream of Horses” for the newly engaged couple was really sweet. The funniest moment for me was in the last song when electric guitars were the instrument of choice; Mick just sat there tapping rhythm on the side of his guitar while Chris didn't have much to do. Mick whispered something to Chris, after which Chris went backstage to get a spare electric guitar, with which he began dancing on stage until the song ended. Reading over what I wrote, it doesn't sound so hilarious, so I guess you had to be there.

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