O2 Academy | 20th July

Twenty years on from the release of the band’s second and final album ‘King’, Belly are in a busy O2 academy venue for the Bristol date of the band’s first UK tour since their reformation earlier in 2016. Tonight’s line up is the same as it was when the band split, with Tanya Donelly joined by bassist Gail Greenwood, guitarist Tom Gorman and Chris Gorman on drums.

There is no support act on this tour; with Belly playing a staggering two 45 minute sets followed by an encore. The way in which the evening has been set out makes the gig go by pretty quickly despite the band being onstage for ninety minutes. The band are trying to be self sufficient with no extravagant set pieces or light show which leaves the band nothing to hide behind.

Unfortunately this means that the first few songs of the night are unfortunately marred by sound problems. Apparently the speakers on our left hand side aren’t working properly which results in half the audience not being able to hear Tanya properly. A performance of ‘Seal My Fate’ which should have Tanya’s vocals to the fore is left disappointing by the fact we can’t hear her properly. Afterwards audience members eventually pipe up and tell the band. We are then offered a choice of whether the band should go off for the intermission now or carry on. The band carry on for a couple more songs before the sound is eventually sorted, but when the night’s second set sounds a lot better you wonder whether having the interval in it’s planned slot was the right decision.

Despite the initial setbacks, the band appear to be enjoying themselves a lot as they haven’t played onstage together for a while and are relinquishing the moment. Bassist Gail Greenwood is the perfect representation of this, telling jokes and swinging her bass around with wild abandon whilst drummer Chris Gorman keeps a steady beat with a big grin on his face and his brother Tom remembers the twenty-plus year old guitar licks as if he has never stopped playing them.

The setlist is an even mixture of the band’s repertoire combining tracks from the two albums with a few choice B-sides. A couple of new songs are also aired and they do not sound at all out of place; without the band informing us that they are new we would have mistaken these tracks as forgotten gems. The new songs don’t even have confirmed names yet but hearing them for the first time whets our appetite for the eventual studio recordings.

The biggest cheer of the night comes for ‘Feed the Tree’ which was unsurprising seeing as it is the band’s biggest hit. Other highlight’s come with beautiful ballad ‘Judas My Heart, a roaringly anthemic ‘Super-Connected’ which proved a great song to finish the second set with before the band returned to encore with an achingly beautiful version of ‘Thief’. After a night of sing-a-longs and heartfelt moments of loveliness the night’s earlier sound problems had been forgotten as much due to the joyous enthusiasm of the four people on stage as the nostalgia evoked by hearing the music played live again.

Check out ‘Feed the Tree’ here: