WORDS AND IMAGES ANDREW LOCKWOOD
Dreamland welcomed back Reef to the South-East coast as the Glastonbury band returned to the heritage theme park for the first time in four-and-a-half-years this weekend. The Last time that Gary Stringer and co played in Margate was pre-pandemic, long before Sam Mendes released his lovingly crafted film – ‘The Empire Of Light’, and prior to the recent addition of new Reef band member, Amy Newton.
Back in November 2018 Reef played in The Hall By The Sea as they set about promoting their then new LP, ‘Revelation’. This time around Reef were here to celebrate 30 years together, and to tour their latest album – ‘Shoot Me Your Ace’ in a re-scheduled gig that should have taken place in late October 2022. Rather than taking to the same stage in The Hall By The Sea, perennial rockers Reef entertained the Thanet audience in The Ballroom, a stylised version of which featured in the Olivia Coleman, Michael Ward and Colin Firth flick that was set in Margate and used Dreamland (Re-named ‘The Empire’) as it’s main focal point.
Reef blitzed The Ballroom in one of their first gigs since bassist Jack Bessant had “suffered a serious head injury due to an accident”. Having had to cancel a series of recent dates in Plymouth , Bournemouth and Wolverhampton it was a great relief to see that Bessant had recovered and was able to take to the stage with his trusty bass and accompany the rest of the band.
Prior to Reef, the ever growing crowd were entertained by award winning bluesy rockers – When Rivers Meet (aka Grace and Aaron Bond). The Essex duo, crowned ‘Blues Band Of The Year’ three years in a row, started their nine track set with arguably their biggest song to date – ‘Did I Break The Law’. Using a plethora of guitars, including one fashioned out of an old cigar case, Mr & Mrs Bond worked the audience well, pulling off a great rendition of last year’s pulsating single ‘Innocence Of Youth’, a rousing ‘Battleground’ from their debut album ‘Why We Fly’ and a very strong conclusion in ‘Want Your Love’.
Reef strode confidently onto the low level Margate stage just after nine o’clock and took no time at all in getting in to their rhythm. Charismatic lead singer Gary Springer was almost immediately compelled to get up close and personal with his audience as he tore into the title track from Reef’s latest album ‘Shoot Me Your Ace’. Springer spent more time on the inner lip of the crowd barrier than he did on The Ballroom stage, high fiving and fist bumping those closest to the front and singing his heart out as he looked into the whites of their eyes.
In a setlist that would go on to include a further 20 tracks, Springer and Reef showcased a brilliant back catalogue that highlighted their pedigree. The balance of old and new material was spot on as Reef littered their set with tracks that encapsulated their 30 years together. As Gary broke in to the second track of the night, ‘Naked’, you could already appreciate what a fantastic vocalist he is and how his voice has matured and in all probability, bettered over the years.
‘Consideration’, from Reef’s 1997 album ‘Glow’, slowed the pace after ‘Higher Vibration’ had let Reef offer up their own Blues heavy riffs. The contrasting styles of soulful ballad and rock hardened blues emphasised the glorious fusion of sounds that Reef are capable of generating and just how good they are as a live band.
‘Place Your Hands’, inevitably, got the biggest crowd engagement in the first half of a thoroughly compelling set but the following track – ‘Best Of Me’, echoing some elements of classic AC/DC, more than held it’s own. This track, and to an even greater degree ‘Refugee’, both from Reef’s latest album, more than justified a collective opinion that Reef have hit a new high point and given rise to something that surpasses simply just a return to form.
“North Devon virtuoso Guitarist Amy Newton” fitted in seamlessly to the Reef set up and balanced the stage perfectly playing opposite to seasoned bassist Jack Bessant. Frequent shouts of “Marry me Amy” were heard during the night as Amy and the crowd shared the love. Prior to a rousing rendition of 2003’s ‘Give Me Your Love’, Gary took one of only a few pauses on the night to say that – “Amy wanted to play this one when she joined the band…..this is ‘Give Me Your Love”.
In his green and white tie-dyed Margate Skatepharm t-shirt and obligatory white baseball cap, Gary got as close to his audience as he could, walking up and down the entire length of the crowd barrier as he and the crowd sung out. A rousing and raucous finale, in the form of relatively new favourites, ‘Precious Metal’ and ‘Revelation’, brought the main set to an incendiary end before Gary and Jack returned to the stage for an acoustic rendition of ‘Mellow’ to head up their four track encore. The rest of Reef returned to close out the set with a soulful ‘Good Feeling’, sing-a-long belter ‘Yer Old’ and finally the last song from their debut album – ‘End’.
Reef’s return to Margate was a triumph in every respect. The setlist was well thought through; celebrating a thirty year back catalogue with a fantastic live performance that enthralled the Dreamland audience.
1/ Shoot Me Your Ace
3/ Stone For Your Love
4/ Higher Vibration
6/ Right On
7/ I’ve Got Something To Say
8/ Place Your Hands
9/ Best Of Me
10/ Come Back Brighter
11/ I Would Have Left You
12/ New Bird
14/ Give Me Your Love
15/ Summer’s in Bloom
16/ Precious Metal
18/ Mellow (Gary & Jack Acoustic)
19/ Good Feeling
20/ Yer Old
FOLLOW WHEN RIVERS MEET
My life is a soundtrack, i track my life through music, photography is my passion, my escape, my expression. Without both i have pieces missing, thankfully i’m blessed and get to combine both.
Born in Manchester, lived in Australia for 22 years where i was heavily involved in the Australian Music Industry, firstly in bands (Singer) and then managing bands (all original), I moved back to the UK, Wales specifically 10 years ago and married my childhood sweetheart and life is good.