Live Review: Belly @ The Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth

The great thing about loving a band is that obsessive fandom gives you a nice excuse to travel to places you would never normally go. So when personal circumstances meant I was unable to attend the Belly gig in Glasgow this upcoming weekend I ended up buying tickets for the only other show I could attend, which was in Portsmouth – literally the furthest away gig from where I live. But hey when you’ve already waited so long to see your favourite band reunite then things like distance and cost no longer matter.

Portsmouth was the first headlining gig in the second phase of Belly’s reunion, after their triumphant 2016 tour and a brief visit to Europe to play Primavera Sound last week. Those planning on attending these U.K. shows should be aware that there’s no support act – the band come on early and play for two hours with a short break in between.

When Tanya, Gail, Tom and Chris bound on stage they are greeted with such a warm reception it’s like they’ve been away for twenty fucking years or something. No one is going to let this band disappear for a second time without making sure they know we love them. The crowd is packed into the cosy venue, which helps to create a sense of intimacy with the band on stage.

Opening with the slow burning menace of Low Red Moon, Tanya’s voice is as sharp as ever and the rest of the band are more than a match for her power. It’s wonderful to see how relaxed and happy they appear to be in each other’s company. Maybe when you haven’t spent twenty years touring together it’s a treat to play together, rather than a chore and the audience feed off their infectious conviviality.

Unlike the shows in 2016, tonight the band have new album Dove to promote (read my review here) and the new songs add energy and intrigue to the evening. Army of Clay fits seamlessly into the set, being the most reminiscent of their older songs and the slower tracks like Quicksand also sound fantastic. You shouldn’t underestimate how rare it is to release an album in your fifties that holds up against the work you did in your twenties.

Bassist Gail Greenwood has charm and banter in spades, keeping the crowd entertained with her potty mouth throughout the night. She introduces songs by telling us to party like it’s nineties, which we do. Favourites like Red, Gepetto and Now They’ll Sleep are greeted like long lost friends. At the end of the first set they play new song Human Child, my favourite song of the year so far, and it doesn’t disappoint. Getting the band back together is more than an exercise in nostalgia.

The second set begins with Shiny One and Stars Align, two standout highlights from the new album, which get a rousing response from the crowd. During The Bees from second album King, the group of super fans in front of us put their arms around each other and soon everyone is crying again.

The final trio of songs are some of their best, with Feed the Tree followed by a blistering Dusted and Superconnected, proving this band can still fucking rock out with the best of them. For the encore we get my personal favourite old song, the bside Thief, which combines their acoustic and grungier elements into three minutes of aching perfection. They leave us with the sweet wonder that is Starryeyed, which nicely sums up the night.

Nowadays when bands split up they call it an ‘indefinite hiatus’ or they do two years of farewell tours before getting back together a year later when they need the cash again. Maybe no one of this generation will understand what it’s like to wait so long to witness a reunion. To me that’s a blessing and a curse since breakups might hurt but the making up is everything.

So when the show was over and the happy crowd exited the venue via the merchandise stand, there was only one question left to ask: are the band back for good? Belly have proved they have the songs and the audience who want to hear them. Whether or not they decide to stay one thing is sure – we love them dear.


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