Reel Big Fish – Newcastle 02 Academy – 16/2/09

Posted on February 17, 2009

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For some bands the phrase “energetic stage show” just doesn’t quite cover the mania that takes place at a gig. Reel Big Fish are such a band, and as soon as their banner unfurls behind the drum kit and the sextet take to the stage it’s as if a charge goes through every person in the venue.

The fact that the Fish are still playing and packing out academy venues up and down the country is no small feat considering the fact that they’ve been releasing material independent of a record label for the past three years now. Far from the crippling blow that being released from a major label can be, the move has given the band a new energy that has seen them go from strength to strength and become arguably more successful and noticed than they have been for a few years now.

Before I get to the main event however, a special mention must go to principal support act, Suburban Legends. These guys have been playing across America for years now but have never made it to these shores for a tour until now, and judging by the strength of their performance I doubt it will be too long before they return for a tour of their own. The music is as bouncy and fun as you’d expect, but it’s the way the band performs that really makes people take notice. For starters they come on stage to a piece of electronic before all six band members burst into a choreographed robotic dance routine. It sounds silly, but it’s fun and polished, and the band are evidently having fun. That along with a superbly unexpected cover of Under The Sea, from Disney’s The Little Mermaid gains the band a lot of new fans very quickly.

Most bands would struggle to top the Legends’ set tonight, and even an ardent RBF fan like myself had to wonder if they were capable of pulling it off. Fortunate then that RBF were at the very top of their game tonight, indeed as they have been for the past three years, kicking off the set with the rabble rousing Trendy before launching into a set list containing tracks from every one of their five proper studio albums and a selection of tracks from new covers album, Fame, Fortune and Fornication.

The set list plays out like a fan’s ‘best of’ selection, with old live staples such as Everything Sucks, Sell Out, Beer and Good Thing being played alongside several songs which haven’t had a regular airing for quite a while , such as Alternative Baby, The Bad Guy, A Little Doubt Goes a Long Way and She’s Famous Now. Typically the night ends with their infamous cover of Take On Me, which is so powerful as to get the entire standing area of the academy bouncing and skanking . To say the band play tightly would be an understatement, but Scott Klopfenstein should be especially applauded for his contribution to the proceedings, as he plays rhythm guitar, trumpet and provides soaring backing vocals note perfectly throughout, allowing the sound to transcend the perceived goofiness of ska-punk.

In traditional RBF fashion the songs are interspersed with funny inter- band member banter and mini interludes such as main man Aaron Barrett and trumpeter John Christianson teaching the crowd how to ‘ska dance’. The tutorial was hardly needed though, as the crowd exploded into a sea of flailing legs and smiling faces with every upstroke played. Reel Big Fish tend to tour for their U.K fans once a year, and if they keep up the standard of their live show they can expect to be met with academy sized venues filled with hundreds of fans eager to dance for a long time to come.

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