All This and More: A radiant Belly reigns supreme at Union Transfer

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Belly | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
Belly | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

When a band frames a show as “An Evening With…,” the connotation is that this is a special event, a unique and refined occasion for the learned and erudite spectator. It can be construed as a veiled euphemism for “we’re all a little older now.”

As further evidence of the ‘90s revival that Gen X-ers are all enjoying lately, alt-rock darlings Belly have reunited for the first time since disbanding two decades ago. A new record — their third — is due out soon, and they closed the first leg of their reunion tour Sunday night at Union Transfer with “An Evening With Belly.” A special occasion for fans who are a little older now, it was.

Belly didn’t seem to want to let those older fans forget that, either, with lively stage banter throughout their two-hour set about parenthood and bathroom breaks at intermissions, advice on stretching before moshing to avoid sprains, and an interactive conversation about the prescription drugs that have long since replaced the recreational ones. (Cracking a joke about inhalers, bassist Gail Greenwood got a section of the crowd to chant “albuterol!”)

Belly | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
Belly | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

Still, the several allusions to aging aside, you’d certainly never have known it otherwise. The band was radiant and came ready to rock. Singer Tanya Donelly’s mellifluous vocals were as clear as ever, as the platinum-haired icon swayed with her red guitar next to the ever-kinetic Greenwood, who danced around stage left like a marionette. Greenwood’s basslines, along with Tom Gorman’s eloquent lead guitar and his brother Chris’ urgent rhythms, revitalized every one of their songs for feverish fans. Belly showed the chemistry and cohesiveness of a band that had spent the last twenty years rehearsing for Sunday night.

When Donelly took the stage again after the intermission, she responded with a cheshire grin to a fan’s exuberant, “we missed you!” with “did you mean that you missed us in the past twenty years or ten minutes?” Although Belly have been airing out a pair of tracks from their upcoming album lately, this tour hasn’t been about their new material. The band’s been playing almost two separate full sets each night, drawing in almost equal measure from their 1993 debut record Star and 1995-era material from follow-up King. They played all the hit singles last night — “Now They’ll Sleep” and “Super-Connected,” “Slow Dog” and MTV Buzz Bin faves “Gepetto” and “Feed The Tree” — but tastefully dispersed throughout, mixed in among lesser-known deep cuts like “The Bees,” “Dusted,” Full Moon, Empty Heart,” and “Low Red Moon,” and B-sides like “Spaceman.” Donelly and co. closed the second set in 3/4 time with “Stay,” the poignant closing track off of Star, before returning for an encore of “Thief,” their beloved contribution to 1995’s Tank Girl soundtrack.

By the end it felt less like standing around waiting for reprises of a band’s most popular songs, and more like an intimate show for which their fans had waited a long time to see come back around. More like “An Evening With Belly.” With any luck, this won’t be the last of them.

Below, check out a gallery of photos from the show, the setlist and a YouTube playlist of fan videos.

Setlist

Set 1:
Puberty
Slow Dog
White Belly
Dusted
Punish
The Bees
Low Red Moon
Red
Gepetto
Judas My Heart
Full Moon, Empty Heart

Set 2:
Now They’ll Sleep
Seal My Fate
Feed the Tree
Comet
Spaceman
Angel
Super-Connected
Stay

Encore:
Thief

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