Friday, 9 November 2018

Gig Review: Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish at The Forum, Kentish Town 30/10/18

Whenever Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish tour the UK separately it creates a huge amount of excitement amongst the army of ska punk fans all over the country. When they announce that they are touring together you can only imagine the hysteria that creates! I mean, hysteria might be stretching things but we were all very, very excited. As with any tour when it's first announced we all wondered who would be supporting. The ska scene in the UK is currently getting bigger and bigger and I know a bunch of us from the New Cross/Be Sharp scene were hoping some of the bands who have been plugging away in the underground would get the chance to show a bigger audience how great they are. Sadly this wasn't the case as Zebrahead and Suburban Legends were soon announced as the support bands. This is not a bad thing as both bands are great live bands but I did feel like this could have been a huge opportunity for some of my favourite bands to get some exposure to help their careers rather than rehashing a combination of bands we've all seen plenty of times over the years. That said, I was still very excited for the show and to sing along to some classics from all four bands.

We arrived just before Suburban Legends took to the stage. Opening with the classic track High Fives, the Californian band's set oozed with positivity. If you've ever seen this six piece before you'll be aware of just what a high energy performance you're going to get, with the slickest dance moves around – Faintest Idea, they put you to shame! Suburban Legends are an excellent opening act as they are extremely good at getting a crowd moving early and ensure everyone in the room has massive smiles on their faces throughout the set. The set was a sort of best of, such as the aforementioned High Fives, along with Hey DJ and Bright Spring Morning and a couple of their Disney covers – You've Got A Friend In Me and I Just Can't Wait To Be King. A fantastic way to start the night.

Up next were Zebrahead. These guys have basically become Slam Dunk Festival's house band over the past six years and this was their first London show in that time that wasn't because they were in the UK for the festival. The kids in the UK adore Zebrahead and from the opening of Rescue Me a huge pit opened up and bodies began to fly everywhere. If you've seen Zebrahead before then you know what you're in store for, I'm quite sure they've been playing pretty much the same set for the past five years. It doesn't matter though as they're a superb live band and it's always really enjoyable even if it is a tad predictable at times. There was one new song that I've not seen them play live before that I didn't catch the name of but I recall it was about partying. It summed up Zebrahead perfectly - the ultimate party band.

For the duration of the tour, Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish would be taking it in turns to finish the show. Tonight it would be Reel Big Fish on last which obviously meant Less Than Jake were up next! This would be a different Less Than Jake show as they've recently taken on a new touring drummer – Matt Yonker, formerly of Teen Idols and long time Less Than Jake tour manager, as Vinnie has decided that after 27 years in the band he feels he needs to spend more time at home with his family. If you weren't aware of the history of LTJ, and had never seen them before, you would have been none the wiser about the line up change however. Taking to the stage and immediately playing fan favourite Gainesville Rocky City got the audience losing their minds in an instant. We were stood reasonably near the back of the room and it felt like the pit was close to reaching us. Less Than Jake incite the biggest mosh pits. Because they were doing two nights in a row at The Forum they played quite a varied set list so the lucky folk going to both nights wouldn't just get the exact same show. Although, after seeing them so many times over the years, I'd say no LTJ show is ever the same. Because of the varied set list, this was a chance to see some songs like A Still Life Franchise, She's Gonna Break Soon, Shindo and Last Hour Of The Last Day Of Work get rare run outs. Weirdly I was talking to a friend at the show and he was saying that Last Hour was one of his favourite songs from Borders And Boundaries but they rarely play it live. That was an extra treat for him. Of course they also played the hits, along with Gainesville Rock City they also busted out Look What Happened, Johnny Quest Thinks We're Sellouts, The Science Of Selling Yourself Short (with the Reel Big Fish horn section) before finishing the set with All My Best Friends Are Metalheads. Less Than Jake always put on a great show.

So now it was time for Reel Big Fish to take to the stage and to be honest I thought they had a big task on their hands to top Less Than Jake's set. I was so surprised when they took to the stage and, after a couple of drum beats, launched into their famous cover of A-Ha's Take On Me. This was surprising because who opens a set with a cover? Plus every time I've ever seen Reel Big Fish in the past, that's been their final song. The Forum erupted into a massive sing-along that continued for the rest of the night. Following up Take On Me with Everyone Else In An Asshole and Trendy showed that Reel Big Fish have consistently written massive songs throughout their long and illustrious careers. Something I noticed during Reel Big Fish's set is just how big the songs feel, you don't get this feeling with many ska bands and I think it's a big reason why the Californians are still so popular after all these years. Their classic album Why Do They Rock So Hard is twenty years old this year. To celebrate they played one song from the album – She's Famous Now. I won't lie, I was kind of hoping for an album show to celebrate the momentous anniversary but I have no complaints about the set list. Of course there were covers, the already mentioned Take On Me, as well as All Star by Smash Mouth, Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison and Monkey Man by Toots & The Maytals. We were also treated to some new material from their upcoming album Life Sucks… Let's Dance! Their first new album in six years! Reel Big Fish are one of those timeless bands that no matter how many times you see them it's always an incredible set that leaves you with the biggest smile on your face.

I still think it was a shame that some of the great UK ska punk bands weren't given the chance to shine on the big stage with two of the most legendary bands in the genre but that didn't stop me having an incredible night of dancing and singing along. As package tours go, you're not going to find a better one!

This review was written by Colin Clark. Photos by Emma Prew.

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