Elaine Liddle

12:04 8th December 2006

Arab Strap

Viva Stereo and De Rosa, tonight’s supports, are both decent enough bands, but you can tell the audience’s hearts aren’t really in it. Tonight, after all, is not about discovering new bands, it’s about letting go of old friends: as the sign outside says, “Arab Strap – thank you and goodbye.”

A sold out crowd waits for Aidan Moffat and Malcom Middleton to bring their band on stage for the last time, and nostalgia is thick in the air. These fans have been sharing the intimate and personal details of Aidan’s life through his lyrics for the past ten years, and it’s strange to think that, after tonight, that will all be over. They come on to bagpipes and a clip of an old BBC news report about the band: a councillor from Falkirk, angered by the bands jibes at their home town, booms out: “There are two ways to make it in the music business: either you cause controversy, or you have talent. It’s clear that they have nothing of the latter.”

From that typically tongue in cheek hello, Arab Strap break in to a set that touches on albums from their whole career: starting with the opener, ‘Stink’, from last year’s ‘The Last Romance’ and running through rarities like ‘I Saw You’ – Aidan’s ode to the cellist from Belle and Sebastian. The band are clearly in a charitable mood, this being their last tour, so they’re even throwing in old fan favourites that usually get a response of “Fuck off” from Aidan when they’re requested. ‘New Birds’ especially gets a huge reaction from the crowd: one excited man loudly proclaims his thanks and love as it ends.

A flurry of balloons is unleashed from the ceiling as ‘First Big Weekend of the Summer’ kicks in, turning the gig into a giant retirement party for the band as the crowd sings and dances along. When the band leave the stage, the bang of bursting balloons fills the room like fireworks. During the encore Aidan dedicates ‘Packs of Three’ to his dear old mum – hopefully Mrs Moffat appreciates the line “It was the biggest cock you’ve ever seen” as much as the rest of the audience.

Several thank yous later, Aidan and Malcolm finish the set alone with ‘The Shy Retirer’. As they head off to celebrate together, the crowd leave - sad that it’s over, but happy that they were here to join in the last party.

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