Them Is Me @ Birmingham Bar Academy – 2nd August 2008


Let’s face it; out of all of the bands to find fame during the Britpop era of the mid-90s, Reef were probably the best of the lot — even if they weren’t the most successful. As such, it was a real shame when they split back in 2003. However, vocalist Gary Stringer and bassist Jack Bessant are now working together again, and with the help of Nathan ‘Tugg’ Curran (Basement Jaxx) and Jonas Jalhay (Lady Sovereign) on drums and guitars respectively, they are back with a new band — Them Is Me.

Taking the stage in front of a reasonably filled Bar Academy, the general air is one of intrigue and mystery as Them Is Me kick off. Save for the odd few dedicated fans who have already bought the band’s debut album and learned all of the songs, it would be fair to say that most people here are Reef fans curious to see what the fuss is about. Forty-five minutes later, as the band left the stage, it as clear that no one went home disappointed. Them Is Me do, unavoidably, have a very Reef-esque feel to their sound, but they are far from just rehashing an old master; this band has something added about them too. The guitar sounds wonderfully rich and bluesy, and the riffs coming from the stage have a stoner influenced feel to them, before launching into something suitably bouncy, and normally accompanied by a trademark “Yeah!” from Stringer. In short, it is modern, funky, and highly likeable.

The four-piece manage to rattle through the entirety of their self-titled debut release, with songs such as “Let the Sun”, “Moving Up”, “When It Gets Dark”, “Caveman Love” and the superb “Them Is Me” showing real potential for future success. The only thing that this band needs to do know is to have a touch more self-belief and self-confidence on stage. Their set was something of a slow-burner; by the end it was smoking, but it did take a few songs for the band to just relax, bounce around and generally have fun. There was also no talking between numbers — not that Stringer was renowned for being chatty when in Reef, but in a setting as intimate as this one a bit of talk would have gone down a treat. If Them Is Me can hit the stage with the same fizz as when they left it, tonight would have gone from highly enjoyable to incredibly special.

Not to sound too negative though, Them Is Me have some great songs and are an excellent live band that should only get better. Their closing number “They Won’t Be There For You” was anthemic and showed everyone that Stringer’s voice is just as strong as it was ten years ago. And no, before you ask, they didn’t play anything from their previous band’s back-catalogue — a shrewd move given how young and talented Them Is Me are on their own. As much as the crowd may have been yearning to hear hits like “Place Your Hands”, it is clear that Them Is Me’s own material is strong enough for them to play solely original stuff. People will go to see them because of who they used to be, but will come back again because of who they are now. They’ll be back in town next month with the Stone Gods; make sure you’re there to see it.

Review — Dave Musson

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