Live Review: Reef with support from Mother Vulture and A at O2 Academy, Bristol on 22-04-22

REEF SHOOT ALL THEIR ACES!

Written By: EMMA PAINTER

Photos By: PACIFIC CURD PHOTOGRAPHY

Who’d have thought they’d ever see a live band again? If you asked that question a couple of years ago, the answer probably would have been a big fat ‘no’. Well, it seems we’re finally over the worst of the pandemic and the ‘C’ word – for now anyway. Boris is far too busy picking up the pieces from ‘Partygate’ to even think about what hell we’ve all been put through the last couple of years, let alone what it’s done to the worldwide music industry. It’s fair to say we’ve had enough and that we’re all craving to get out to hear live music in any venue that we can possibly get to.

As for the bands that we know and love, they’ve been gagging for it too. What with new music being released and no tours to show off new work, it’s been a tough and agonising wait. Fear no more. There’s plenty of lively bands out there that can’t wait to share their music with us all, as well as those who are already in the business.

Let’s take one well known music venue in Bristol, an up and coming four-piece band, plus two mighty rock bands that have bequeathed our eardrums with their music for 20+ years. What do you get? A Friday night that had many fans chomping at the bit to get the biggest hit they’d had in a very long time. You could almost smell the anticipation in the air as the queue flourished by the tour bus, punters clutching their phones. Gone are the days when you had a paper ticket to grasp and wave in the face of security as you made your way in to a gig – with everything being digital it’s all about ‘your phone being your ticket’. Blimey – back when these bands started out in the early ’90s, the thought of that would sound way too weird and futuristic. How times have changed.

There are two supporting bands tonight and first up are Mother Vulture from Bristol, who are pretty much new on the circuit. Some say they’re crazy. Some say their shows are chaotic. But word on the street is that they are one of the most exciting bands to watch in the UK right now.

7.30pm on the dot, Mother Vulture swarm onto the stage minus vocalist Georgi Valentine, who was last out sporting jeans and a cropped shirt. As bass guitarist Chris Simpson greets the crowd, the band have a relatively short set to contend with and a sporadically placed audience. But – and that’s a big but – the sound and gusto that is launched into the crowd sees them squeeze together like a flock of sheep with ears and mouths open in sheer astonishment.

These fine young gentlemen wield each of their instruments like a weapon, with no holds barred when it comes to putting on a performance. They are young, fresh-faced and ecstatic, eager to give it their all in every god damn note played. Each member has their own traits and not one of them, with the exception of Matt West on drums, stands bloody still for a millisecond. The deafening drums and the heavily drenched fuzz of the bass guitar doubled up with hefty riffs from guitarist Brodie Maguire creates the perfect platform for Valentine’s monstrous roars to lay upon.

Some of you will already know that Maguire is AKA Angus Young in one of the top AC/DC tribute bands, Hells Bells; just the school uniform is missing on this occasion. But his presence on stage is just as animated, which leads to Maguire falling off the stage in a frenzied state (whilst still playing his guitar of course). No harm done fortunately.

The last track in their set is Mr Jones – an utterly mind-blowing stompfest that has the crowd worked up into a sweat. To conclude, don’t ever judge a book by its cover. You’d better lock up your daughters – Mother****in’ Vulture has landed.

After a quick set change, the second support band are on stage. This time it’s A; the alternative rock band from Suffolk who brought us the top ten hit Nothing are back in business. After their fourth album was released, the band parted ways but have been touring intermittently since reforming in 2007 and it seems that they’ve been lapping up being back on stage and loving every minute of it.

Vocalist Jason Perry along with twin brother Adam (on drums) and Giles on keyboards still remain at the forefront of the band and they are joined by Mark Chapman on guitar and their newest member Tim Hillier Brook on bass, who joined in 2019. Nonetheless, their sound is like they’d never been apart, as everything seems to fall into place nicely. Jason Perry does most of the chatting, as he marches merrily along to each track in his blue and red Berghaus jacket and slips in a few jokes. “Right, I’m gonna try a new exercise on you all now, and it’s called an age-appropriate circle pit. I can’t do it coz my tits are too big. C’mon, let’s carve this shit up”, he bellows. Well, it seems to work as the crowd form a circle that has them walking anti-clockwise and throwing their hands in the air. Not quite sure about the ‘age appropriate’ bit though!

As the crowd are happily singing along, Jason takes the time out to thank Reef for letting them join them on tour before covering their notorious track Nothing, such a great tune which nicely wraps up the band’s set for the evening.

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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!

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