Reef – Newcastle Riverside, 6th April 2015
Review by Graeme J. Baty
It’s Easter Sunday and also Tyne & Wear Derby day in the football. Which could mean some very rowdy punters tonight! Thankfully the audience were in great spirits and there were no drunken incidents just people out to enjoy some good old rock and roll!
Reef are a band that hold so many memories for me. Not just me, speaking to people at the venue they seem to have a warm place for the band in their hearts. My personal story involves my backpacking days and drunk dancing on tables screaming along until I lost my voice in Byron Bay to their classic hit ‘Place Your Hands’. It was a great time of my life and that song instantly takes me back to that trip. Today also marks 21 years since Kurt Cobain passed so the day has truly been a nostalgic one for me, looking back on some of the music from my mid to late teens. So yes here I am totally ready for a hit of retro guitar riffs and I’m curious to see what new material they have. Reef have split and reformed (a trend that, I must admit is becoming rather tiresome) with minor lineup changes. They feature one of the greatest and most underrated voices of the last 20 years; a timeless rock vocalist with a raw mix of blues, soul and funk. So let’s see if they’ve still got it.
Openers Vukovi from Scotland tried very hard to wake up the audience and with not much of a response. Maybe the crowd had too many shandies during the football or the shock of the first warm day of the year? Either way the audience seems a little bit uninterested, which is a shame as they played a great energetic set. Maybe they’re not quite rock enough? They remind me of Marmozets, albeit a much more radio friendly version. Four or five songs into their set they finally seem to wake people up and gain a reaction. They gathered momentum and won the audience over. Newcastle crowds can be tough to impress!
On to the main show. Classic Black Sabbath songs blast out the PA before they come on, warming me up quite nicely. By the time Reef take to the stage the venue has filled substantially, not too many that you can’t move/see, not too few that there’s no atmosphere; just the perfect balance. It looks not far off a sell-out which is impressive considering the timing of the show.
Immediately I am stunned at the power of the songs and the performance. They have indeed ‘Come Back Brighter’, or should that be come back bikers? As vocalist Gary Singer and Jack Bessant bass player now sport rather awesome beards.
They get the uber hit ‘Place Your Hands’ out of the way early in the set. I wonder if that’s a bold move. It certainly would clear out the one hit wonder fans. Pleasingly the audience appear hooked and people stay. It is so easy to label them as a one hit wonder, which is painfully inaccurate. One glance of the setlist tonight and there are many fine tracks on there from throughout their career. I Would Have Left You’,’Yer Old’, ‘Higher Vibration’ and ‘Summers in Bloom’ to name but a few. The audience are absolutely loving the show, chanting “Reef! Reef! Reef!” in-between songs.
They ended their main set the song with THAT RIFF from THAT ADVERT. It was amazing to hear that track played live even with a tuning gaff they restarted the song and stormed onwards. After a good 75 minutes on stage I was truly buzzing, I just wanted more. It’s been a long time since I’ve been this excited seeing a band. Perhaps because I wasn’t expecting much more than another reformed act dragging out old songs? Maybe, but I am happy to say that I was very wrong. Reef just made my top 20 bands I’ve ever seen (that’s a fair achievement as I see around 200 bands per year!).
The sound tonight is tremendous, It is a pummelling attack of bass and guitar hooks. A huge credit is due to the sound engineers and the new PA at the Riverside. This is how a live show should sound. I shouldn’t get excited, this should be standard, sadly that has not been the case in Newcastle for a long long time. Until now we just didn’t have a large venue that can cope with anything slightly heavy. My last few shows at the Riverside have really impressed me. Rock is back on the menu in Newcastle!