The night is moving fast and the O2 is packed by 9pm. Everyone is well-watered as the crowd fill every possible crevice to get a glimpse of none other than the West Country’s finest rock outfit, Reef. Time for a little history…
These lads have seen no end of success since their formation in the early 1990s and despite a few changes in their line-up over the last few years, this hasn’t stopped these rockers pulling together some banging new tunes.
With the imminent release of their latest album Shoot Me Your Ace, this tour has been welcomed with many open arms. Not only that, there’s a new drummer in town – Luke Bullen, who’s worked with the likes of Bryan Ferry and Billy Bragg.
It feels like a lifetime ago that Reef’s last album Revelation was released, although it’s only four years ago. But throw COVID-19 into the mix and that’s pretty good going. Revelation received some comments at the time that it didn’t follow the band’s usual rocky sound, yet Shoot Me Your Ace comprised a collaboration that no one saw coming, with legendary Duran Duran guitarist Andy Taylor. And from what we’ve heard so far, those drilling guitar riffs that had you bobbing your noggin have made a comeback which have been embraced by many fans.
Another addition to the band’s tour is Devon’s finest female guitarist and vocalist Amy Newton, who’s a long-term friend of the band and looks to be fitting in perfectly. Not only is she a friend and a phenomenal guitarist, she understands the band’s vibe and picks up any riff thrown at her.
The time is 9.15pm and the venue is filled with the chants of the crowd shouting “Reef, Reef, Reef” and as the band head out on stage, Gary Stringer struts to the front, hurls a bottle of water into the pit and raises his arms in the air with a grin on his face. “Alright Bristol, how you doing?” The cheers are immense as the band jump straight into their first track of the night, Shoot Me Your Ace, a killer tune that sees the band going back to their roots, with propelling riffs, hustling drums and not forgetting Stringer’s influential gritty vocals.
As the band cover a whole host of tracks from their discography such as Naked and Consideration, the band sound as fresh as they did 25 years ago. Bullen keeps the band’s sound alive with his impeccable drumming, whilst Newton enjoys rocking out with Bessant, who has a new ‘clown vomit green’ bass on the scene to brandish, occasionally interacting with the togs in the pit or the front row of the crowd for them to grab a shot.
Wearing his newly shrunk Levi jeans, Stringer is all smiles as he takes every opportunity to speak to the crowd in between tracks and gets a few crowd pics on his phone as Jesse Wood randomly swaps sides of the stage, obviously having the time of his life up there.
Another new track performed is Best of Me. The band is on fire by this stage and Stringer just has to comment on how much fun it is to play with the band. This new track is a cracking tune that also shows just how much stronger Stringer’s vocals are nowadays and that there’s plenty more where that came from. And of course, a Reef gig wouldn’t be a Reef gig without the crowd surfing, which began part-way through their set. Security were on hand though and straight on it.
There was only one official **** up during the night and that was at the start of a track with a memorable bass riff. Yes, that classic tune Summers in Bloom, a song about getting in trouble in the West Country apparently. Those exhaling ‘yeahs’ in between the riffs are unforgettable before Stringer blasts out the first few words of the track in his perfectly fitting Somerset accent; it wouldn’t sound right any other way. He then vacates the stage, leaving the rest of the band to mosh amongst themselves until the end of the track. But is this the end of their hefty set?!
The crowd start stomping on the floor, shouting “encore, encore” – and just like that the band are back on stage for their final numbers. As the tour has already been going a week or so, many already have expectations about what was on the cards from scouting social media. Does that spoil the surprise? No. But our ears are about to be tantalised with a classic tune by Fleetwood Mac. Just think Formula 1 and you’re there. The Chain – and a chance for everyone to get out their mobile phones and hit record as this track is played to perfection both instrumentally and vocally. Stringer and Newton’s vocals are harmonious and the band perform a distinguished rendition of it. There’s nothing like seeing it played live.
A couple of older Reef hits to end the set and what’s better than Yer Old and End to do just that?
With just a handful of dates left, this tour has been a little bit different for Reef. Not only have they been dying to get back on stage and show us what they’ve got to offer after having no choice to stop performing, but they have also chosen to support new acts in some of the areas they have been playing. These guys are the real deal. They’re honest, hardworking and know which side their bread is buttered when it comes to making it in the music industry. They understand the difficulties that bands are faced with, so taking new blood under their wings on tour is an incredible way to support new acts.
Nice one boys!