Belle and Sebastian have established themselves as creators of pop music that can make you think, dance and laugh in equal measure, demonstrating a craft that has the ability to produce a smile on even the most cold-heated of faces.
That said, there don’t seem to be many in the venue who suit that description, as the band are treated to a rapturous reception as they arrive on stage – perhaps a more wholesome endeavour than our most recent trips to the cathedral to catch The Fall and Fun Lovin’ Criminals.
Throughout the night, frontman Stuart Murdoch is a ball of warm interaction, the perfect tonic to a bitterly cold night as the winter nights begin to draw in.
It is a set that touches upon every phase of the band’s 18-year career, dipping into each album, in some cases with a track or two the crowd were not expecting.
New album Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance will not be with us until next year, but the audience are treated to a fair slice of it on the night. But with every band who last long enough to approach their third decade, sacrifices have to be made – in this case in the shape of trademarks like ‘Funny Little Frog’ and ‘The Blues Are Still Blue’.
Murdoch takes the crowd back to the first time he played Manchester, recalling their 1997 performance at the Town Hall. The recede is met with scatters of cheers from those who were there, but their ongoing popularity is proved the fact that there are so many in the venue who look too young to have attended back then.
Murdoch is a versatile performer and although the project is very much his baby, he is more than happy to take a backseat during some numbers – perhaps most effectively when keyboardist Sarah Martin takes chief vocal duty, less so when guitarist Stevie Jackson steps up for an EMF-style rap that would have even felt dated within the surroundings of the Town Hall all that time ago.
In truth, there are a few too many moments where the atmosphere feels a little flat, with the sound rattling around slightly in such grand setting and general murmurs from the crowd creating a bit of a distracting backdrop during more lo-fi tracks.
‘The Boy With the Arab Strap’ is still the party piece that defines the evening, though, with Murdoch beckoning a gang of female audience members to join him on stage.
Even after that moment of joy, there is still room for an encore. Belle and Sebastian return to the stage for a rendition of ‘Me and the Major’, again taking us on a trip of nostalgia via their debut If You’re Feeling Sinister.
At times, the newer material simply has not stood tall alongside the classics, but as the crowd begin to filter out the venue there is a sense that if there still given the chance in another 18 years, they’ll be right back stood in the same spot.