This Reef article was written by Mark Steele, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Josh Hummerston
On a mild Saturday night in Bilston at the renowned Rock n roll heritage hub – The Robin 2. There was an immediate warm buzz in the air amongst the people with heightened anticipation ahead of Reef’s appearance in town this evening. A stoked atmosphere which seemed appropriate for a gathering of old friends reunited with new friends invited. Much love was apparent coupled with happy exchanges amongst the majority mature audience.
The band’s entrance saluting and waving the crowd was greeted with jubilant factions of applause, accompanied by whole-hearted whistles and cheers. Vocalist Gary Stringer had shorn his well impressive recent beard to short length, with equally bearded Drummer Dominic Greensmith, mega-wizard bearded Bassist Jack Bessant, new resident Axeman Jesse Wood and on keys Local Lad Andy Wallace.
With instruments readily revved up, bass and guitar riff they opened with great stomper ‘Higher Vibration’, with Gary’s vocals growling richer and grittier than ever, this was an explosive start to what was going to be a very memorable and dynamic night for all.
One of their new songs ‘Just Feel Love’ showcased another rifftastic blues-rock anthem, [giving us an enthralling sample of new sounds to come], Gary’s soaring vocals reminiscent of an LA Woman Doors period Jim Morrison. Several of the greatest hits that followed including ‘Summer In Bloom’ and ‘I would have left you’ beamed across with zealous vigour, it was interesting to note there are certain Reef songs that reached down into the soul and ‘Consideration’ was a piece that really resonated deep and meaningful with the crowd, a rare surprise surfaced in a cover of American R&B artist Don Cavoy’s inspiring classic ‘Mercy Mercy’ bountifully delivered with soulful punch and pungent clarity. Two further new songs featured amongst the other well-known numbers, ‘First Mistake’ was a down south rock ballad with a Black Crowes flavour, ‘Lone Rider’ provided an opportunity for Gary to demonstrate his confident guitar abilities as was next seen with familiar hit ‘I’ve got something to say’.
There was obvious expectation of succession for new guitarist Jesse Wood taking up axe master duties following the departure of founding member Kenwyn House. This passing of the baton has allowed a fresh voice and approach to shine through. Jesse played through the standard numbers and new material with relative finesse, recalling Jimmy Page/Jeff Beck in a relaxed confident mastery, truly evident in songs such as the heavy riff funk driver ‘Ball and Chain’ and a Creedence/Black Crowes tinged ‘My Sweet love’ (written two weeks ago incidentally). Throughout the night saw Jack Bessant’s from-the-heart expressive playing and Dominic Greensmith’s striking funky stick work, keeping the ever pumping rhythm section well-oiled and reluctant to slow down anytime soon.
Favourite crowd pleaser anthems, ‘Place your hands’, ‘New Bird’ fired up the already animated crowd even further and finished the relentless sixteen song strong set with their epic debut ‘Naked’ – With an encore request bellowed from everyone’s lips, Reef readily returned onstage and fuelled the house to an altar call with deep south church gospel blues mover ‘How I Got Over It’ and the band rounded proceedings with the frenzy inducing screamer ‘Yer Old’.
A vitality packed show, flowing with continuous jovial appreciation between band and crowd alike, was further complimented by Gary and Jack’s end-of-show huddle with the fans.
A band with timeless appeal who have ridden many veriform waves in their career, blatantly and proudly fly the flag of British Rock. With promising expectation by already this year announcing a brand new album out next year. Reef are definitely coming back brighter and have not hung up their boards yet.