Reef @ The Hub, Plymouth - 25/02/2016

Firstly, two admissions of guilt. Number one; I've never been to the Hub in Plymouth before and it's a cracking venue. Nothing fancy going on here but a good raised stage, a large room and a long bar with reasonably priced drinks all add to the excellent sound system and relaxed vibe. Number two; for a variety of reasons I only managed to arrive in time to catch the last song of support band Andy Quick's Flying Orchestra. Nevertheless, what I saw/heard was  exciting, engaging, catchy and, with a spider-like drummer, visually entertaining so they're now on the list of bands to catch.

While the crowd mill around and get drinks the background music is a who's who of Britpop past
Reef @ The Hub - Photo by Sharon Buckingham
with Oasis, Blur and the Verve all getting an outing which only serves to remind just what a special band Reef were in the 90s. While the country was getting bent out of shape about which set of city fey boys  was writing the best and most ironic indie tune, Reef were writing the soundtrack to a hundred summers soaked in cider and only visible through a haze of early evening sunshine and sweet smelling smoke. As the four members of Reef (plus honorary fifth member on keys) take to the stage, though, there is a definite sense of nerves as though this first proper tour in years with a new kid on guitars means more than it has for a long time. Any nerves were soon dispelled, however, as Jack Bessant's rumbling bass started shaking the walls of the venue and Jesse Wood's feedback squall welcomed us all in with a huge sounding rendition of 'Feed Me'. For the 60% of the audience there to hear 'Place Your Hands' this was a huge wakeup call - this was a rock'n'roll show.

The set just roared on from this point with pitch perfect renditions of 'Higher Vibration', 'Come Back Brighter' and 'I Would Have Left You' as the quartet moved through the gears, pulling heavily from the hugely successful 'Glow' album. Pausing for a breather in the set, Gary Stringer introduced us to new song 'First Mistake' which had a tender, soulful feel before their most popular ballad 'Consideration' completed the set slow down. Unsurprisingly, the performances of 'Place Your Hands' and 'Naked' were the high points of the night for the general masses with crowd surfing and general singing along going up by around 50%. For me, though, it was the trio of 'New Bird', 'Summer's In Bloom' and 'Stone For Your Love' that got me bouncing. More new songs were aired which showed the contribution that Wood is making to the band as Kenwyn House's replacement - he's not just a pretty face if 'Just Feel Love', 'True To Yourself' and forthcoming single 'How I Got Over' are anything to go by, the kid has serious chops.

Jack Bessant - Photo by Sharon Buckingham
The acoustic came out for 'I've Got Something To Say' (a personal favourite) and the bitter, angry tones of 'Don't You Like It When I'm High?' fizzed and crackled around the venue. The obligatory encore featured mostly new material but finished where the night started with a track from the band's debut album, 'Replenish'. 'Choose To Live' always showed Reef at their experimental best and this sprawling, loose limbed version was a delight to behold. In a year that has already robbed us of so many musical greats, I think at least Lemmy can rest easy that the spirit of English rock'n'roll is alive and well, it's just been slumbering in the Somerset hills like a groggy giant. 

If tonight was a scene in a film then it would surely have been the training montage before the prize fighter makes his title winning return to the sporting arena. Reef will be around most of the festivals this summer and you would be hard pushed a better live rock band from this island with a better back catalogue and new songs to boot. As for me, I feel 16 again and have fallen in love with Reef all over again which is hard to admit as these guys like are, like, seriously hairy and that's not really my type.

More information:

Live Dates:

26th February - Mr Kyps, Poole
3rd March - Electric Ballroom, London
4th March - The Factory Petroc, Barnstaple
5th March - O2 Academy, Oxford
10th March - O2 Academy, Bristol
11th March - O2 Institute, Birmingham

12th March - The LCR, Norwich