Soon into their set at the 9:30 Club on Saturday, jangle pop quartet Belly played… a new song!
Tentatively titled “Punish,” the song was introduced by vocalist Tanya Donelly, who invited the audience to submit better names for the tune. Then Belly performed the song, a number seemingly about dealing with the consequences of your actions. It’s a little bit heavier than a traditional Belly song and it “rocks” more than it “rolls” — but it’s pretty darn good.
But let’s take a minute to consider the situation…. Belly! Tanya! 9:30 Club! New song! Wow! Truly, I would have been happy if they got up there and performed anything at all really. After 20 years away and an all-too-short discography of two full-length albums, Belly flew back into our ears with beautiful music.
The well-regarded ’90s rockers were back, winding down a tour that had taken them across the United States and Europe, and playing many of their best songs, including the likes of “Slow Dog,” “Low Red Moon,” “Gepetto,” “Judas My Heart,” “Seal My Fate,” and of course “Feed the Tree.”
The very nearly sold-out room ate up very lyric, every guitar lick, every drum beat with rapt anticipation. And it was glorious.
Tanya, who sits atop a string of great singer-songwriters to emerge in the ’90s for me, was in great form. Her voice was ageless and her guitar was steady. (Never having seen her perform live previously, she was a bit more petite than I expected!) Bassist Gail Greenwood was snarky yet friendly and also ready to rock. The gents of Belly were a bit more subdued but every bit as prepared as their bandmates — brothers Thomas and Chris Gorman knocked it out of the park on guitar and drums respectively.
The audience, comprised almost entirely of people who discovered the band upon their breakthrough album Star in 1993, were overjoyed, and the band too was in good spirits. Belly played for two hours without an opener, dividing their set into two distinct halves with a 10-minute intermission, explaining that they could use a break these days after performing 11 songs in a row. The crowd began cheering hard before the band even appeared, during an intro video set to “Think About Your Troubles” (featuring Gail’s overly cute dogs), and cheered even harder upon the opening notes of “Dusted.”
Personally, I think I enjoyed the second half of the set the most. Belly picked up “Seal My Fate” from their underrated 1995 sophomore album, King, and they didn’t miss a beat. Then soon of course they play the biggest and best Belly song of all — “Feed the Tree,” a salute of sorts to the circle of life. But it’s such an incredible song in part due to its bassline, which starts out foreboding and mellows into a knowing, uplifting melody. It’s a lush, beautiful song that only Tanya could sing so paradoxically with both whimsy and gravitas.
Belly close the show with an encore of their terrific contribution to the 1995 soundtrack to “Tank Girl” — “Thief,” a slowly burning ballad of self-discovery with a late-in-the-game beat drop that drives the song home.
As you can see, this was a fantastic show. Having missed any concerts by Belly in the ‘90s, I certainly look forward to seeing them when they come around again, particularly in anticipation of more new material.
Belly has only one scheduled date at the moment — a show in Portland, Oregon on August 27. But Belly hits the road again in a week for a string of dates in California and the Pacific Northwest, and they follow that up with a few more shows in September. Belly is back! Let’s hope for more from our favorite Bostonian jangle rockers soon. (Ah, I’m reminded of the perils of relying on Facebook for updated tour info!)
Here are some pictures of Belly performing at the 9:30 Club on Saturday, August 13 (and me without a photo pit or a good location from which to shoot — other less amateur photographers got some better pictures of this show, surely).