TVD Live Shots: Reef at the O2 Forum, 4/16

It was twenty-five years ago when I was first introduced to the band Reef. I was working in a record store, and their label had sent a promo for their second album, Glow. I popped this one over the speakers and heard “Place Your Hands” for the first time and was immediately blown away. It was like hearing Led Zeppelin II for the first time, but with Brian Johnson on vocals instead of Robert Plant. The next song, “I Would Have Left You” was even better. It was heavy, no-frills, groove rock with a bit of soul. It was the Black Crowes with a giant set of balls. And they were British? How in the hell could anyone nail this sound so perfectly? I was obsessed.

This record became a staple in my collection, and I followed the band religiously for the next several years. This was a bit of a challenge as the band was massive in the UK but never really broke out in the states. I finally got to see them live a few years back at the legendary Hammersmith Apollo on the Brit Rock Must Be Destroyed tour, where they headlined alongside the Wildhearts (for some reason, these two bands seem to have some beef between them, but I never got the entire story). It was an absolute banger of a show and spawned an incredible live record which I highly recommend.

Fast forward to 2022 and post-pandemic, and Reef is back with a new album. A band at this stage in their career has lots of options as to what direction to take with their music as they have no one to answer to and nothing to prove. With that being said, someone must have challenged Reef frontman Gary Stringer to make the best album of the band’s career and then turn it up to eleven. I’ve only heard three songs from the upcoming release, but holy shit, they are easily the band’s best work in over two decades. It’s the classic Reef sound, but it’s somehow become bigger, louder, and seemingly more pissed off.

“Shoot me Your Ace” opened the show that night, and rightfully so. This song was born to be the opening number. The band walked on stage with a swagger and attitude that very few bands can pull off after nearly 30 years of rock ‘n’ roll. Reef delivered a blistering 90 minute set with eight songs from their masterpiece Glow, four new ones from the upcoming Shoot Me Your Ace, and a mix of other songs from their catalog rounded out with a not surprisingly brilliant cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.”

I would not hesitate to say that this was one of the best rock shows I’ve seen in my life; I would certainly put it in the top five. The new album is coming on April 29th, and you can pre-order it here.

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