“Do you want to party like it’s 1992?” asked Belly frontwoman Tanya Donelly, doing a spot-on impression of bassist Gail Greenwood early in the group’s second set of the night at The Vic Theatre in Chicago on Oct. 6.
“Well, do you?” Greenwood echoed, provoking a wave of cheers from a crowd full of dedicated fans, as she began playing the determined bassline introduction of their iconic single “Feed the Tree.”
Of course, fans were eager to return to the melodic alternative rock of the New England foursome’s first two albums, Star and King. The evening’s performances of “Slow Dog,” “Full Moon, Empty Heart,” and “Seal My Fate,” the latter of which opened the first of two almost hour-long sets, were among some of the best moments of the tour-closing concert.
Yes, everyone loves the old stuff, but nostalgia be damned. It was Belly’s new material from Dove – their first album in 23 years – that generated the most unbridled enthusiasm during the Saturday night show.
Each musician shined on “Mine.” Slinky and steady riffs from drummer Chris Gorman provided a foundation for his brother, guitarist Thomas Gorman, to drop decisive leads while Donelly and Greenwood shared sweet harmonies that had their own gravitational pull. Donelly manifested wonder and hope on “Stars Align,” her expressive vocals unfolding a tale of cautiously optimistic love. “I could say we’re gonna be fine someday / And it might not be a lie,” she sang.
Later, the twang-filled “Artifact” found Belly stretching the limits of genre. “This is Americana the way it should be done, the Tom Gorman way,” said Greenwood joking that the band is capitalizing on the folky craze. “Army of Clay,” “Faceless” and “Girl,” empowering in its simplicity, further demonstrated the scope of the songs found on Dove.
There was a refreshing looseness to Belly’s performance. Band members conversed about everything from drumstick selection to the beautiful Vic Theatre, dispelling any preconceived notions of the traditional barriers between artist and audience. It was like being in the comfort of family. As Tom Gormon soloed on “Shiny One,” his bandmates converged towards him in a show of support while also taking time to enjoy his technique. At one point, Donelly and Greenwood shared a hug that seemed to extend out to the entire crowd.
With the day’s news of Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hanging heavy, Greenwood led everyone in some much needed catharsis, inspiring a mass of middle fingers to raise in the air. “F*cking November, people. We got this,” she said before encouraging fans to stop by the bar during the mid-show set-break. “We need to bring the good name back to beer,” she joked.
It may be awhile before anyone feels ready to “party like it’s 2018,” but enjoying live music – inspired by a new LP – from Belly certainly helped Chicago fans forget about the world outside and enjoy an evening of harmony.
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