Gig Review: REEF – O2 ABC, Glasgow – 15 November 2013

Interview with James Toseland by David Wilson, 15 November 2013

Reef are a band that hold a place dear in many people’s hearts. At their peak they were one of Britain’s hardest working and most down to earth bands with songs that were the soundtrack for the youth of a generation. The band are now celebrating their 20th year with a full UK tour and a set chock full of hits, what’s not to like?

The hall was a bit on the quiet side when I arrived in ample time to catch support for the night, Toseland, fronted by ex-World Superbike champion James Toseland. Having heard his first two single releases on the radio I was curious to see if the band could cut it in the live arena, the answer was an emphatic ‘yes’. The guys master in solid, melodic rock with big riffs and even bigger choruses. Ex- Little Angels frontman, Toby Jepson, has been instrumental in helping James with songwriting and musical guidance, listening to the results it has been a marriage made in heaven.

James is still developing as a frontman and looked happy but a bit apprehensive on stage, which is only to be expected at this early stage in the band’s career. He has the voice to carry things off and with a very tight band behind him they put in a very polished performance. As well as singing James also plays piano in the band which may surprise some, he played with confidence though and was note perfect throughout.

The setlist was lifted from their forthcoming debut album which will be out in March 2014 and should be a must for any melodic rock fan. The two singles, ‘Life Is Beautiful’ and his latest, ‘Renegade’, both went down a storm with the gathering crowd and by the time the guys reached their last track, the bombastic ‘Crash Landing’, it was a job well done. On this showing Toseland have a good future ahead of them and with James at the helm they look like they are on the fast track to success.

By the time Reef took to the stage the ABC had filled up nicely. I wasn’t sure what kind of a crowd to expect at this one and it looked to be a mix of rock fans and 90’s indie fans, such was the broad appeal of the band at their peak. The band took to the stage with little fuss, frontman Gary Stringer looking like he had just come out the pub. As I said, there are no airs or graces with Reef, what you see is what you get. Stringer is also a man of few words, there was little between song banter, so the evening was all about the music.

The set was culled from across the band’s career and the crowd lapped up every note. The guitar work of Kenwyn House was impressive to watch as were the laid back bass antics of Jack Bessant, who was sporting an impressive beard. One new track was aired which the guys have written for inclusion in a film soundtrack, it was a slow burner with a big chorus and showed the band are still capable of producing good quality music.

It was the hits though that the masses had turned up to hear and the place erupted mid set when House cranked out the opening riff to ‘Place Your Hands’, with the rasping vocal of Stringer leading much crowd participation. ‘Come Back Brighter’, ‘Consideration’ and ‘Yer Old’ were also greeted like old friends and again reinforced the fact that Reef have some fantastic songs in their back catalogue. Listening to these tracks it becomes apparent how much of an influence, directly or indirectly, Reef have been on the likes of The Temperance Movement and The Answer and with these bands doing so well at the moment, maybe now is the right time for a Reef resurgence.

This was a great show with both bands putting in excellent sets. Hopefully Toseland will continue to rise through the ranks and Reef can once again become a force to be reckoned with, personally I wouldn’t bet against either.

Review and photos by David Wilson

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