Reel Big Fish at Shepherds Bush Empire

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Review: Reel Big Fish at Shepherds Bush Empire

By Elin Berta

Thursday February 9, 2012

Over the last few sub-zero weeks I’ve been questioning my decision to leave Sweden for life here in London.

When I was walking to the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire after a long, tiresome day at work the snow had started to fall again, making me think that a nice cup of tea and a movie seemed a lot more appealing than a gig.

However, a gig it was. And not just any gig – but Reel Big Fish.

I first heard of the band some 15 years ago, when their music used to stream religiously out of my older sister’s hi-fi. And since then, nothing.

So I had no idea what to expect from the Californian ska-punk band during their 20th anniversary tour.

Walking in, I was quite surprised to see the mix of people in the crowd. Kids almost as young as I was when I first heard them, and people well into middle age filled the Empire. Mohicans, dreadlocks, business suits – they were all assembled last Thursday night – and they just couldn’t stand still!

With original singer and songwriter Aaron Barret still holding the band together, the chemistry between him, trombonist Dan Regan and the rest of they guys was impressive as they danced throughout the set. And it was contagious. No one stood still. And when the band said ‘everybody jump’ - we jumped.

Most lead singers could get away with introducing songs insulting their audience, but Barret sure did. When he introduced the cover of Van Morrisson’s Brown Eyed Girl with the words ‘Ladies and gentlemen, if you do not know this next song...’ followed by a few four-letter words, the response was just laughter, followed by frenetic dancing.

For all those fans at the Empire, I’m sure it didn’t come as a surprise when the band saved their biggest hit, Sell Out, from 1997, as an encore.

And even though it was expected, it was very much welcomed. And as they started playing their second encore, my Scandinavian heart got even warmer. To hear A-HA’s Take on Me transformed into a ska-tastic assault made my night.

On my way home, the snow that fell throughout the gig didn’t bother me anymore. And it didn’t seem to bother any of my fellow comrades heading the same way. At the platform, I couldn’t help laughing out loud as a group of teenagers walked by, singing Everybody’s Doing the Fish.

And by the time I got to my station, close to an hour later, my legs basically tried to kill me. As the wet snow kept on falling, my legs seriously couldn’t be stopped with their mission impossible - dance and walk at the same time!

A reel challenge, indeed.

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