“Are you ready to rock like it’s 1993?” asked Belly bassist Gail Greenwood at one point during the band’s show at the 9:30 Club this past weekend. The question met with a fervent affirmation from the packed room. The band had apparently had quite an aggravating trip down I-95 getting to the District and was tired and cranky upon their arrival at the venue, but their mood visibly changed when they came out to find the enthusiastic crowd waiting for them. At times, it was hard to tell who was more in awe at the situation – the audience who were seeing a favorite band reunited and revitalized for the first time in two decades, or the artists themselves, who were clearly not expecting to be met with so much excitement.
The Belly reunion certainly came as an unlikely surprise to fans when it was announced back in February. Previously, singer and guitarist Tanya Donelly had been releasing her Swan Song series of EPs, a set of recordings that she announced was her exit strategy to retire from music. Greenwood and the Gorman brothers (guitarist Tom and drummer Chris) had already largely disappeared from the public eye. But the successful reunions of fellow 90s bands such as The Breeders, Veruca Salt, and Lush made it clear that the time for a comeback, if one was ever going to happen, was now.
During their all-too-brief original tenure, the band released two albums, 1993’s Star and its follow-up, 1995’s King. Most of the lengthy show, which was divided into two sets with a short intermission between, was drawn from these two records. The band’s biggest songs, including “Slow Dog,” “Now They’ll Sleep,” “Feed the Tree,” and “Super-Connected,” were all represented. They also dug deeper into the records, including tracks like “White Belly,” “The Bees,” “Judas My Heart,” and “Seal My Fate,” and even included two single B-sides, “Spaceman” and “Thief.” It was a set bound to make any fan of the band ecstatic. The band sounded as solid as ever. For one night in the 9:30 Club, it really was the 90s again.
Lest anyone think that the group was purely drawing on nostalgia though, their set included two new songs, “Comet” and “Punish.” The new songs were as strong as the old and fit in well with the set. The band had said when the reunion was announced that they would be recording new material, though it’s unclear what form that will take – individual track releases, an EP, or a new album. However it comes out, based on these two songs it will be something to look forward to.
Reunion tours have become so common these days that it might be tempting to dismiss yet another one, yet to ignore Belly would be a mistake. Far from simply a run on nostalgia as some reunions end up being, Belly has proved at these shows that they are still a strong, vital unit capable of producing music that sounds as fresh today as it did two decades ago.