Belly – The Garage, Glasgow – Saturday 16th June 2018
This show was undoubtedly over-shadowed by the overnight fire at the Glasgow School of Art which also destroyed the show’s original venue, the O2 ABC. As a consequence, we spent the morning fretting and fully expecting the show to be cancelled. So it was with some relief to hear at lunch-time that the show had miraculously been switched to the smaller capacity Garage – the scene of the band’s first official reunion show back in 2016. Probably the first time lower than hoped for ticket sales has ever been regarded as miraculous.
Even then, the journey to the Garage was sombre as, after parking, we had to walk past the still smouldering site of both the ABC and the GSA.
Perhaps the true miracle is that no-one was killed in the fire but the loss of the ABC will really hit the touring scene in Glasgow. It’s worrying that the gap created by the loss several years ago of a similar sized venue in Edinburgh, the Picture House, has never been filled.
Fair to say that this would have been a special event in normal circumstances but the backdrop of the fire only heightened emotions. The depth of love for this band from its audience was illustrated by the fact that so many people had travelled from far and wide to be there. Once upon a time it would have been a fashion crime to turn up at a show wearing the headline act’s t-shirts yet due to the fans’ connection with the band with Belly it seems almost obligatory.
That connection saw the band feed off the audience every bit as much as the other way round. Indeed, the band came up against the “hard disco turnover” (a.k.a. the curfew) perhaps entirely for that reason – there was so much interaction between the band (more often than not Gail!) and the audience. The contrast with contemporaries the Breeders on their most recent visit to the city could not have been starker.
Fans were rewarded with two sets that ranged across all three albums and, as you would expect, squeezed in some fans’ favourites non-LP tracks, even if the arrival of ‘Dove’ has reduced their scope for unearthing cult classics.
It was almost a greatest hits set (‘Now They’ll Sleep’ being the only single omitted) with Set 1 leaning more heavily on ‘Star’ whilst most of the ‘King’ numbers arrived in Set 2. The ‘Dove’ songs were split between both but offered some of the highlights in the shape of ‘Stars Align’ (Earworm of the Week!)and the closing ‘Human Child’.
Given that the band were well into their UK run there were no first night nerves this time around which meant that Belly were fully up to speed. Which didn’t prevent Gail from trolling Tom ahead of ‘Stars Align’ since he supposedly always fluffed the song’s solo! (but not this time!!)
He’s done it!!
Perhaps as a consequence of the switch of venue, the sound wasn’t as good as it can be at the Garage, at least from where we were standing. At times, Chris’s drums at times overwhelmed parts of the up-tempo numbers – so whilst the intro to ‘Super-Connected’ induced that hairs-standing-on-the-back-of-the-neck feeling, some of the momentum got lost when things got a bit muddled sound-wise. It wasn’t the only time that happened and whilst normally I’m the one that’s picky about sound, for once Mrs MPT also commented on it after the show.
On one occasion though that worked to the band’s advantage – ‘Shiny One’ was transformed, rather improbably, into a serious groove. The band can rock with the best of them (when they want to, of course) but grooving is not something I’d have associated with Belly beforehand.
The quieter songs though thrived in the sympathetic atmosphere. ‘Artifact’ and ‘Quicksand’ from ‘Dove’ offered a chilled segment midway through the first set whilst the “encore” of ‘Starry-Eyed’ and ‘Spaceman’ was the perfect way to round things off.
Two years on from their live return Belly would appear to be a fully functioning band now and two UK tours and a new album are an impressive output for that time. And there’s every prospect of more in the coming years – even if real life means that they’ll not tour as often as they did in the past.
But if they’re back in 2020, we’ll be there again …
Full setlist from the show here.