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Live Review: Reef – Friday 23rd April 2010 – Shepherds Bush Empire, London, UK

4 min read

Reef haven’t been around for a long time now. The Glastonbury band formed in 1993 and had a string of hits in the 90’s britpop era due largely to the infectious pop records the band produced such as Superhero, All I Want and the party anthem Place Your Hands as well as the distinctive vocals of front man Gary Stringer. Their 1997 album Glow, is ranked at number 26 in Kerrang!’s 100 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die list and the band had a total of 8 UK Top 20 singles before deciding to part ways on 15th August 2003 at the Falmouth Regatta Week.

With all the reformations and reuniting bands over the past couple of years it was only a matter of time before Reef would follow suit and get back out there for their devoted followers. For the first time in almost 7 years the band have hit the road once again with a spell of UK dates including a performance at West London’s Shepherds Bush Empire on April 23rd.

Arriving just before 8pm the venue was already completely packed. Though I have been to sold out gigs at the Empire before this one looked and felt like there were at least 300 people above capacity because every inch of the venue was taken up.

Support act Matthew P took to the stage to warm up the crowd just after 8pm with a small collection of acoustic and radio friendly seaside numbers with his three piece band. He proved to be a crowd pleaser with his folk infused guitar set. Perched above the speakers sat a wave styled sign titled Matthew P with a battery powered seagull adding further to the beach life setting.

Dressed in jeans and a grey t-shirt reading Them Is Me (Gary’s side project with Reef bassist Jack Bessant), Reef came on stage around 9pm to a thunderous applause. As soon as the lights dimmed every person in the venue was on their feet stamping and hollering to the quartet, bodies already being pushed aggressively against the stage barriers and photographers eagerly fighting for the best pictures.

The band opened the set with one of their biggest hits Come Back Brighter which was nothing less than electrifying. Gary’s screechy and coarse vocals which are as recognizable as the bands hits was on top form as he filled the venue with energy. By this time crowd surfing had already started and security were in their first attempts at lifting the unlucky surfers who neared the stage out of the mosh pit only for the same punters to repeat the process time and time again. This proved to be an endless job for security all night.

Good Feeling followed next and was one of the highlights of the set allowing Gary to show off his amazing vocal abilities with the ad lib styled structure of the number.

Drum heavy Stone For Your Love, I Would Have Left You and the catchy Weird were all performed flawlessly to an appreciative audience of headbangers and rock chicks before Consideration took over to waving arms and numerous bodies being elevated onto shoulders in time for the bands most commercial and radio friendly hit Place Your Hands. This is the one the band are probably the most famous for and the number that stood out from the whole nights performance. As soon as Kenwyn Houses opening guitar riffs came in the ground shook with an entire venue of jumping Reefers. The song was delivered with pure showmanship from Stringer and the band were clearly having a blast together on stage working off each others energy.

Throughout the night Gary interacted with the audience giving recognition to all 3 levels of Reef fans and getting among the crowd on numerous occasions shaking hands and at one point mouthing ‘are you OK?’ to a fan at the front barrier. His cool swagger and his effortless delivery of the bands hits were unsurpassed. When he wasn’t prancing around the stage he was bouncing along with the crowd.

Further down the set fan favorites I’ve Got Something To Say, Superhero and Set The Record Straight were all given an equally rapturous response. The band closed the first set with Choose To Live and exited the stage to prepare for their encore.

After a five minute break the band emerged to play a revved up encore of Naked, the incredible I Do Not Know What They Will Do and another huge Reef hit Yer Old before the aptly titled End closed a perfect night of live music.

The band went through tough times in their heyday and leading to their split back in 2003 but you could never tell from their performance tonight. They were tight and in top form. Their stage presence and energy to deliver their catalogue to their adorning fans was their goal and they achieved that ten fold.

The unstoppable force of Reef sets the precedent of how a live rock concert should sound and I for one hope we get to see and hear more from these guys in the future.