Reef @ Birmingham Academy, 20th April 2010


It’s been a while since Reef have been together, and they’re in Birmingham as part of their six date reunion tour. Someone needs to pay the bills…

Matthew P is opening up for Reef on this short tour, and I’m not really sure why they picked him. I know he surfs, but is that a good reason to book him? Matthew and his band (much like Lenny Kravitz has a band) play a very bland form of acoustic chill music, which I can image helped him woo the ladies whilst sat round a campfire on the beach after a hard day surfing the North Sea. I can’t help but think in the right setting, people would class him as a British Jack Johnson, maybe, but not tonight. The small crowd that are here manage to talk over his entire set, making it hard to hear his tunes. So hard, in fact, that the crowd don’t really realise when he’s finished his tunes and therefore forget to clap. In all my years of going to gigs, I’ve seen support acts cheered and boo’d, but never… nothing. If I’d have liked his music, I’d have felt sorry for him. I was hoping that Rootjoose may have reformed for the tour!


During the change-over, the crowd start to fill the floor, but the balcony is closed tonight. I thought that booking the main room may have been pushing it slightly, but Reef manage to do a good job of filling the floor, even at £20 a ticket! Unsurprisingly, it’s an older crowd in tonight – late 20s / early 30s – and a lot of couples that probably met on the dancefloor at Ramshackle all those years ago!

Reef hit the darkened stage and the crowd go mental, and so they should, as Reef really haven’t changed in the 6 1/2 years that they’ve been away (and it’s been 7 and a bit years since they played with Dominic Greensmith on drums).

Opener “Feed Me” sets the mood straight away – the song being the opening track on their debut album 15 years ago – and the band are still really tight. Greensmith still amazingly intricate on drums, Gary Stringer still strutting around the stage like a young Mick Jagger on vocals, Jack Bessant, now with long grey hair and a long grey beard, still “funkin’ it up” on Bass and Kenwyn House still mixing up the power chords and widdly fiddly bits on guitar.

The set continues through their back catalogue, mixing up the early favourites with some of the lesser known later tracks, but the crowd don’t mind, and show it by singing along to every song they play. During “Good Feeling”, the crowd start singing so loud that Stringer appears to be taken aback by it all, a massive grin spreading across his face – the crowd are having fun, and so are the band.


“Mellow” sees Bessant put down the bass and pick up the acoustic guitar for a note- and echo-perfect rendition, before picking the bass back up, clicking his fuzz pedal, and launching into the dirty intro to “New Bird”, which was followed by the track that I was dreading all night.

“Place Your Hands”. A track which made them truly famous in the UK, and the Reef track that still haunts me after all these years. The Reef track that you’re mostly likely to hear up and down Broad Street. The only Reef track that non-Reef fans know (probably). To be fair to them, it was great to hear it live, and I was surprised / relieved that they dropped it mid-set. It could have easily been the last track of the set, but I’m happy that they didn’t pander to “public opinion”. Although as soon as “Place Your Hands” finished, there was a massive amount of people going to the bar or toilet, happy that they’d heard the “famous song” after all this time.


The main set ends with “Choose To Live”, including a massive guitar freakout in the middle from House, and House and Stringer leave the stage leaving just the rhythm section to finish the song.

The encore begins with “Naked” aka The MiniDisc Song, from the Sony advert all those years ago, and ends with the two most appropriate songs of the evening: “Yer Old” and “End”.


I’m still not too sure what I think of these “pay the bills” reunion tours, but I know that I had a lot of fun, and I think the rest of the crowd did as well. Look out for them at this year’s Isle Of Wight and Glastonbury festivals, and the eventual release of the “Them Is Me” album, aka Stringer and Bessant’s other band.

Set List:

Feed Me (from 1995’s “Replenish”)
Come Back Brighter (from 1996’s “Glow”)
Good Feeling (from 1995’s “Replenish”)
Stone For Your Love (from 2003’s “Together”)
I Would Have Left You (from 1996’s “Glow”)
Weird (from 1995’s “Weird” single)
Mellow (from 1995’s “Replenish”)
Consideration (from 1996’s “Glow”)
New Bird (from 1999’s “Rides”)
Place Your Hands (from 1996’s “Glow”)
Don’t You Like It? (from 1996’s “Glow”)
Summer’s In Bloom (from 1996’s “Glow”)
Lucky Number (from 2003’s “Together”)
I’ve Got Something To Say (from 1999’s “Rides”)
Superhero (from 2000’s “Getaway”)
Who You Are (from 1999’s “Rides”)
Set The Record Straight (from 2000’s “Getaway”)
Lately Stomping (from 1996’s “Glow”)
Choose To Live (from 1995’s “Replenish”)

Naked (from 1995’s “Replenish”)
I Do Not Know What They Will Do (from 2000’s “Getaway”)
Yer Old (from 1996’s “Glow”)
End (from 1995’s “Replenish”)

Review – Tony Hackett
Photos – Katja Ogrin

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