Belly / The Glee Club, Cardiff | 11th of June

Belly / The Glee Club, Cardiff | 11th of June

It’s the beginning of the night, and doors have just opened. Dedicated fans wearing official Belly t-shirts are already pushed up to the front of the stage, with no barrier to set them apart from where their beloved performers will soon be standing. Half an hour later and the floor is awash with fans. The crowd waits with anticipation for the show to begin. There is a good atmosphere; people are drinking and talking amongst themselves. The crowd noticeably consists of an older generation of people who perhaps discovered the band during their prime and have grown with them.

It hits an hour after doors, and Belly finally step onto the stage. While their entrance feels rather relaxed, with no introduction music or exciting lighting, they’re met with a huge roar from the audience. Lead vocalist, Tanya Donelly, breaks the ice by making jokes with the audience whilst herself and the rest of her band tune their instruments. “You guys are so close. Is it too late to get a barrier?” She then calls upon the audience to give Sean, their lighting guy, a round of applause in appreciation of him adding an atmospheric, dark blue lighting to the stage and floor. As they dive into their first song, ‘Low Red Moon’, there is an incredible amount of energy shown by their bassist, Gail Greenwood. This is reciprocated by the crowd as soon as they hit the first chorus. Tanya and Gail direct numerous friendly and excitable gestures at each other throughout the song, showing a genuine bond and appreciation of the platform they’ve earned. Tanya and Gail’s vocal harmonies, over the clean tone guitars and powerful drum beats resonate with the audience; everyone in sight is singing along to every single word. We’re still only one song in, and we have our first attempt at crowd surfing by a member of the audience. This is however, quickly spotted by security, who are already closing in on the front-centre area and perhaps not used to such excitable crowds with the venue usually hosting comedy nights.

The first song ends, and Tanya informs their sound technician that her in-ear monitors are not working and that their drummer, Jimmy, would like to hear more guitars in his monitor. This unfortunate and unpredictable moment is made less awkward with jokes from Gail, who exclaims “It’s Jimmy’s bar mitzvah!”. As they progress into their second song, Tanya is noticeably more confident with her vocals. Those of which are projected throughout the room with much more power than before. I can see hands from the audience waving in every direction. As they reach the end of another song, whilst asking for further adjustments to be made in their monitors, a member of the crowd yells “the guitars need turning up!”. Tanya responds by saying “we have a critic in the audience” in a playful tone. They continue to address a few more issues, as well as requesting to have adjustments to the lighting made. “Boy, Jimmy really got fucked over at his bar mitzva” says Gail after he announces that his monitor is no longer working at all. “We’re going to play without monitors cause it’s rock and roll.” Despite the technical issues, the crowd appreciate the band’s humorous stage presence which almost feels like an intentional part of the show.

They go on to perform ‘Army Of Clay’ from their latest album ‘Dove’ which is received well by the audience, showing that their fans still keep up to date with their releases and are not just attending for the nostalgic value. “We released a new record a couple of weeks ago. It’s our first new record in twenty-three years” shouts Gail, referring to ‘Dove’. “It sounds great in my basement when we practise it!”. This band seem very down to earth, playing for sake of their passion for music instead of any financial benefits.

The communication with the crowd is consistent throughout the evening. “What do you like to do here, Cardiff? You like to sit in your car and smoke pot?” It feels unrehearsed, adding a particularly personal and genuine feel to the engagement with the crowd. Tanya plays through some clean tone chord progressions whilst the rest of the band finish tuning up. During the next song, lots of feedback is created. The band however, seem to be easily forgiven by the audience as they play through some softer materiel. While this seems to be less known by the audience, they are still focussed on the stage, and we see no decline in numbers.

They announce that they’re going to play one more song before they come back to play another set. “We won’t be offended if you don’t stay, but we’ll be disappointed if you don’t” says Gail knowing full well that nobody is going anywhere. They then play ‘Human Child’ from their new album. This is a song that speaks of how damaging it is to live in the past and not appreciate the present. “We let ourselves be owned by the things long gone. Old photographs, old songs wrap us in ghosts.”

During the interval, t-shirts, vinyl records and posters are selling well at the band’s merch table towards the back of the venue. Upon their return, Tanya makes an announcement “Cardiff, you’re only the second people to hear this song live” before playing their song ‘Faceless’. The chorus “When I paint this day, I’m gonna bathe you in light, charging nothing mid way, daring anyone to stare. When I paint this day, I’m gonna paint you on fire. I’m gonna paint you on fire, faceless” is contagious, and the emotional, heartfelt lyrics provoke contrasting feelings of both warmth and sorrow. It’s a shame that this band aren’t playing a different venue, as security are still closing in on the crowd which feels quite intimidating, and I sense that the crowd would be less tame without them present. Their newer material in particular features effective backing vocals from their guitarist Thomas Gorman. He also uses a harmonica during the song ‘Starryeyed’ which adds to the variation of sounds produced throughout their set. After this song, the band leave the stage unannounced, throwing their guitar picks into the crowd. The lights go off, and the crowd is already chanting for an encore. It’s clear that they are going to return.

When they return, Gail takes the microphone to say “We don’t have anywhere to go, so what the fuck, right? Can you turn up the house lights? Cause I need to take a photo of the most beautiful people in the UK”. Every member of the crowd throws their hands into the air. A couple of disco balls on the ceiling are switched on before the band play through two more songs, including their 1993 song ‘Dusted’, reflecting moving lights across the whole venue. This sets the mood perfectly for the final section of the band’s performance. When the last song finishes, Tanya shouts “Thank you so much!” before they depart from the stage. I sense that there’s still a strong feeling of euphoria amongst the crowd as they begin to make their way out of the venue.

 

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