Reel Big Fish are no strangers to the stage – having been almost constantly on the ska-punk scene for nearly 20 years now, there are somewhat veteran performers, and with a skill set so honed to live performance, you’d think they’d never recorded in a studio. They are undoubtedly most at home in front of a crowd, and a UK crowd at that. As Ryland Steen told me before the show, no fan base really compares to that of the UK, and that certainly showed tonight.
As RBF bounded onto the stage, and crashed into ‘Sell Out’ their comfort on stage really shone through. They were energetic, upbeat, fun and enjoyable in equal measure, something they upheld from start to finish. And if that wasn’t enough, it was completely and utterly pitch perfect. The brass section were screechy and boyount, Aaron Barrett’s vocals were syncopated and sublime, the guitars and drums were driving and bouncy. Even the set had all the right songs, from ‘Trendy’ to ‘She Has A Girlfriend Now’, and the various renditions of ‘Suburban Rhythm’ that have become somewhat trademark. In short, I couldn’t fault the show – it was outstanding from the word go.
However, there was a small gap in the night. I left the show feeling chirpy and exhilarated, but when I came to tell people about it, my resounding feeling was ‘yeah it was alright’. Alright?! How can that be? Maybe their comfort in front of an audience has led them to be a little complacent – they used gags that I had heard in their tour from two years ago, and the set list was almost identical, right down to the various genre renditions of ‘Suburban Rhythm’. Yes, it was perfect, but I had seen it all before. Perhaps I am being picky. Can you really blame a band for finding a formula that works and sticking to it? Probably not. But I also don’t think I am asking too much for just a little bit of variation.
Overall though, it was an astounding show. Highlights included ‘Beer’ and the always fantastic cover of A-Ha’s ‘Take on Me’, which caused the crowd to erupt into skanking the likes of which have never been seen. With a new record out by the end of 2011 (fingers crossed), Reel Big Fish will return to the stage with a different set of songs to wow our ears, an unrivaled energy and drive, and hopefully a brand new stage show. And if not, two out of three aint bad – Reel Big Fish still know how to work a crowd, and that is something that will never change. Miss them next time at your peril.