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Belle & Sebastian

Few things in life live up to expectations. Most events are built up so much that the reality can't possibly match the anticipation. (Et tu, George Lucas?) Occasionally, however, a happening surpasses all hopes. Remember your first kiss, how the feeling of lip against lip shot lightning bolts across your cerebellum, how your whole body buzzed like a plague of bees, how you thought you might faint if it weren't for the fact that everyone would laugh at you the next day at school? That (meta)physical experience is what Belle & Sebastian's upcoming shows promise.

OK, maybe a swarm of bees won't visit your pulmonary artery when the Scottish group plays its first Bay Area shows this weekend. In fact, these performances have all the makings of a classic letdown: massive hype, five years of anticipation, a sound that's more pretty than rapturous, and a fan base happy to sit on the floor and whisper along with the lyrics. But consider this: Belle leader Stuart Murdoch is one of the pre-eminent songwriters of his generation, a man whose words -- whether he likes it or not -- register with the shy, frail, and nerdy like no one's since Morrissey's. And while his recent verbiage avoids his early subjects of group baths, wet dreams, and suicides, he still sings in a voice that glides over tragedy and tremor like a knife through warm glaze.

Adding to the band's potential are the arching cello of Sarah Martin, the supple organ of Chris Geddes, the dexterity of drummer Richard Colburn, the Jean Seberg haircut of Isobel Campbell, the horn playing of Mick Cooke, and the rippling guitar of Stevie Jackson. Throw in some handclaps, a few Velvet-y jaunts, and the desire to show Americans that a revolution can be fought with flowers, and voilà -- pure pop ecstasy, without the nasty serotonin depletion.


Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 8-9, at 8 p.m.

Jonathan Richman opens

Tickets are $25


Warfield, 982 Market (at Sixth Street), S.F.

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Some worriers might suggest that you try to expect the worst, so you'll never be disappointed. Pish posh. High expectations mean higher payoffs. Besides, who wants to go through life expecting liverwurst when you can fantasize about foie gras?

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