Reef - O2 Institute, Birmingham - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Reef - O2 Institute, Birmingham

by Mark Steele Rating:9 Release Date:2013-04-08

Six months have passed after the last dose of the rock 'n' roll self-indulgence at The Robin 2, Bilston, in September last year. There is simply no lying to you here, there is a bond that compels you to take advantage when the opportunity arises to go and see a band like Reef. Particularly at the legendary venue that is the O2 Institute, also known as the Old Digbeth Civil Hall, a place where memorable concerts of years gone by, including seeing this band and many others, still somehow leave their lingering nostalgic odours.

It was an extra bonus this time around as I was informed that a promising Midlands four-piece called Only Shadows were hand-picked by Reef to open on the night. They presented a uniquely refreshing and intelligent angle on guitar rock and certainly got the crowd warmed up for the headliners. The short but quality set from the band including latest song 'Be Still', certainly imprinted themselves in those present.

Following the interval,  the venue began to be filled with a fair blanket spread crowd of mature folk. There was a hearty welcome greeting Reef, with beaming smiles of expectation that something special was about to take place. Frontman Gary Stringer, Guitarist Jesse Wood, Bass Wizard Jack Bessant, Drum Meastro Dominic Greensmith and brother-in-arms Keysman Andy Wallace, all took to the stage with revitalizing readiness.

Jesse Wood's gutsy guitar riff and booming rhythm section on opener 'Feed Me' the first track of debut album Replenish, joined by Gary's powerhouse vocal phrasing, rumbling over the crowd, with that power dynamic that Reef are reputed for possessing. This was was swiftly following by regular crowd pleasers 'Higher Vibration' , 'Come Back Brighter' and the funky strutter 'Stone For Your Love'.  The band slowed things up for brief moment songs, firstly on the meditative ocean poem, 'Mellow', allowing Jack to pick up acoustic guitar and then the addition of  two soulful backing vocalists for the  heartfelt anthem 'Consideration' . It was plain to see both songs showcasing Gary's incredibiy rich and dynamic vocals, which get better each time.

It was release day for New single 'How I Got Over', Gary certainly belted out with a clear enthusiasm, the song shone due mainly to Andy's gospel blues keys which truly were sublime,. It was made more memorable with Jesse's crisp guitar  interplay over Jack's and Dominics's rolling and tumbling rhythmic lockdown. With the crowd chanting more from the  band, they quickly fired into 'I Would Have Left You' with a frantic Gary moving around from both ends of the stage egging the crowd on in well a received sing-a-long. Guitarist Jesse Wood's songwriting hand in the new material was evidently class, in songs 'Ball And Chain' and later on with 'Just Feel Love'.

Hearing live again the song 'Don't You Like It?'  was a nice return to the other great tracks from the band's Glow album, and likewise the crowd favourite 'Summer's In Bloom', kept the place jumping. The electricity in the venue now was knocking the meters well into the red when the ageless anthems 'Place Your Hands', 'New Bird' and 'Naked' came to the fore.

If having not already provided a  truly rip-roaring set for the mania induced crowd in attendence, a beckoned Reef returned to the stage for an encore, the response was 'I've Got Something to Say' and one of the new tracks 'Lone Rider', both with Gary on acoustic guitar. As soon as they finished these songs , many salivated shout outs for  youthful raver 'Yer Old' were halted with a 'Not yet, wait a minute' by Gary, 'We have a new song that you might like, this is called 'Revelation'. The new song had all the right rock n roll ingredients, Jesse's heavy guitar riffs, coupled with bounding drums and bass, and it was as though the Late AC/DC vocalist Bon Scott was revisited throughout Gary's vibrant delivery, A great song that should keep rock fans happy. Then the opening bars of 'Yer Old' ending everyone into overdrive as the song reverberated around the hall, and yet a golden nugget out of the blue was the full-on funkalicious 'End'.

A true rock n roll mothership spectacular was delivered by Reef, and the night evidently showed more is in store from the band, with more performance dates in place.  A new live album Live at St Ives is out now, plus a new album expected at the end of the year. Do yourself a favour and get a ticket to see Reef, you won't regret it!


(Many Thanks to Mick Hopkins for the Ticket, Andy Thomas and Gary Morris for the Photos.)

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