It says something that the songs that led me to watch the Reel Big Fish at the Academy 2 in Manchester on a rainy evening in February 2003 are still the songs people anticipate, expect and respond to as I stand in the middle of a very sweaty and much younger crowd than I remember. The HMV forum is fast becoming one of my favourite venues, it is so grand that you feel a little bad to be listening to ear splittingly loud music there, an opera, or ballet would not be out of place, but after seeing the Libertines last year and now this, I think that sort of disassociation makes it a brilliant venue for rock gigs, because you are essentially sticking two fingers up at the building.
I would love to comment on the first two support acts of the evening New Riot and the Skints but unfortunately my punctuality retarded friend turned up about 9 o’clock for a gig which started at 7, he also had the tickets, so instead I watched the aforementioned, very excited, young fans shuffle in and then out for cigarettes and then back in again for the next band, this repeated three times, and I stood waiting wondering why it always rained at Reel Big Fish’s concerts.
I did however see a good two thirds of the Suburban Legends set, and they were really great! I once saw the Automatic supported by Mumm-ra and embarrassingly Mumm-ra trounced them, I’m not saying the same happened here but I’ve rarely seen a crowd respond so well to a support group. They were bright, vibrant and incredibly uncringeworthily choreographed something you can’t imagine at such a concert, but its true, their routines built the crowd up and set the stage perfectly for the fish.
And the fish delivered! They played all the classics starting and finishing with anthems and littered throughout were, well, more anthems. The soundtrack of my tweens was replayed perfectly. I speak as someone who has seen Less than Jake, Spunge (twice), the RX Bandits, the Vandals, Frenzal Rhomb and many other punk and Ska bands when I say that the Reel Big Fish know exactly what they’re doing, do it perfectly and are probably the best at doing it, I mean it. They have the odd grey hair now and sometimes breezed through the tracks with a familiarity that bordered on boredom, but this is like seeing a freckle on a super-model - nobody’s perfect and their imperfections add character.
Their catchy choruses, incredibly addictive melodies and skankified verses got everyone dancing, from the sweaty front to the back of the balcony, and their well versed interjections came at the right moments; not too much talking that they enraged and not too little that they alienated. In the middle of the concert there was a ten minute mess around period with the song ‘SU’ where they demonstrated that if they wanted to dip their toes into different genres and write different songs they could, easily, but they followed it up witha quick blast of ’Another F.U.’ with its chorus of “fuck everything, but fuck you the most!” which clearly demonstrated that these very talented musicians are making the music they want to make and the adoring crowd proved they are making it well. Stand out songs included ‘Everthing Sucks’, ‘She has a Girlfriend Now’ and the ever brilliant ‘Beer’, the band seemed happy, the music was happy, the dancing was happy and the crowd left very happy.
The Reel Big Fish came, saw and conquered and I say that was good.
For all the details of the Reel Big Fish’s current tour check there website: