During its first 17 years, Belle and Sebastian did a swell job of avoiding Pittsburgh.
It did a lot of catching up on Saturday, on what turned out to be one of those magical Pittsburgh nights.
The Scottish indie-pop band finally landed here on a quirky bill with veteran Hoboken, N.J., indie-rockers Yo La Tengo at Stage AE, a venue that doesn't specialize in this kind of thing, especially outdoors in the summer. The occasion was The Warhol Sound Series breaking down another wall for its first show in the confines of its North Shore neighbor.
Both bands referenced the baseball game going on next door, and it in turn made its presence known as the night went on.
"We're here on an awkward night," Yo La Tengo frontman Ira Kaplan said a few songs in. "The Pirates and Mets are playing nearby. You can feel that Pittsburgh versus New Jersey vibe in the air," he said, laughingly acknowledging the Mets as a Jersey team.
Yo La Tengo has gigged everywhere here from Rosebud to Hartwood Acres in its three-decade run, and the trio does its thing regardless of location, flicking the switch from slow, ambient, amorphous ("Before We Run") to hard, fast post-punk ("Nothing to Hide").
Yo La Tengo went heavy on the new album "Fade," while mixing in old chestnuts like "Autumn Sweater," which may have hit a spark of familiarity even for the uninitiated.
Singer-guitarist Mr. Kaplan, bassist James McNew and drummer-singer Georgia Hubley are so masterful with the quiet-to-loud dynamics you could walk in one minute and come back five minutes later thinking it's a completely different band. They ended with a 10-minute noise squall on "I Heard You Looking" that had Mr. Kaplan attacking his guitar like only a grizzled indie vet would.
Belle and Sebastian, meanwhile, is that rare band that pulls off a breezy little song called "I'm a Cuckoo" and gets thousands of people to show up.
Picking up on the quainter side of Ray Davies, the band has made a career out of precious pop with jangling melodies and shy, whimsical lyrics. With 13 of them on stage, though, including a string section, they produce their share of big lovely sound, established on the opening instrumental, "Judy is a ... Slap."
With the music, you get loads of personality from Mr. Murdoch, whose first words were "This is a beautiful scene." Like many performers there, he commented on the Bayer sign on Mount Washington. "The sign on that hill keeps giving us instructions ... 'Wear safety glasses.' In what context should I wear safety glasses?"
Having spent the day here, he was up to speed on Heinz, Carnegie, the names of the rivers and, believe it or not, Highland Park yard sales. Just after the 7th inning stretch at PNC Park, he and the band did their own rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" as the lead-in to the almost-surreal "Piazza, New York Catcher."
Early on, the set veered from the intimacy of "Lord Anthony," a ballad about a schoolboy bullied in the yard, to the sly synth-funk of "Your Cover's Blown."
Then, things got interesting. Belle and Sebastian, the furthest thing from a pyro band, had the Pirates Skyblast behind it while Mr. Murdoch was singing "I Don't Love Anyone," a song that's fortunately more jaunty than its title.
There were fireworks, still unbeknownst to the band, and a stage full of excited girls dancing on the rollicking little number "The Boy with the Arab Strap." The girls stayed up there for '60s groove of "Legal Man," making the whole scene look like "American Bandstand" outdoors.
That was hard to top, but they turned the psych-pop groove into a full wall of sound for the set-closer "Judy and the Dream of Horses" before signing off with the more twee "Get Me Away, I'm Dying," a regular encore, not a comment on the evening.
In fact, it was easy to come away with the feeling that Belle and Sebastian won't stay away for another 17 years.
Scott Mervis: email@example.com or 412-263-2576.