REVIEW: Less Than Jake + Reel Big Fish - Birmingham O2 Academy - 11/11/18
When you see the names Reel Big Fish or Less Than Jake, you know you’re in for a fun night. Now read it as Reel Big Fish AND Less Than Jake. The fun at least doubles. At least. Then add “The Partiest Band in the World,” Zebrahead and a band that plays at Disney World occasionally. Mind blown, right?!
It’s bloody cold on this Remembrance Sunday, but when we get inside, the temperature rises instantly. California based Suburban Legends have just taken to the stage as we enter the main room at the O2 Academy Birmingham. “Just Be Happy” kicks off procedures and straight away, it sets the bar for what to expect tonight. Follow it up with “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” (the song from Toy Story), and you can see the crowd growing in excitement and size. Their set is over before you realise it, and it’s hard to believe that they’re only the opening band. This doesn’t stop them from giving everything they have to everyone in attendance. The synchronised boy band-esque dances and high kicks show you just how tight this band are. “Arigato”, “High Fives” and “Warrior” give way to a mesmerising rendition of “Just Can’t Wait To Be King” that has turned anyone who wasn’t 100% in, with the entire room singing and dancing along, before they take it home with “Bright Spring Morning” and set closer “Whoa!” Suburban Legends really are brilliant at what they do, and will have any crowd warmed up and ready to go (if they still have their voice left, that is.) I implore you, seek them out. You will not be disappointed.
“The band that made Andrew WK look like a bald party pussy” take the stage next. Zebrahead invite you to start a circle pit from the second “America, F*** Yeah!” finishes and the band kick in. Zebrahead are known for chaotic shows, with a constant flow of circle pits and crowd surfers throughout any of their sets. This was no exception. Zebrahead live up to their moniker, with 3 Beers making drinks throughout the set and handing them out to anyone on or side stage. I don’t envy their hangovers in the morning, I’ll tell you that much for nothing. There’s a drinking contest where an audience member is brought on stage to chug a beer in a race against someone whose “entire job is to drink. That’s all he does!!” The audience member lost, obviously. But we’re told to “party like [he] won the chug-off.” In all honesty, the instruction wasn’t needed. Instantly, chaos is restored, and the circle pit starts again. Zebrahead’s frantic style can be epitomised by “Who Brings A Knife To A Gunfight?” from the album “Walk The Plank”, where the entire audience is left screaming “WE WANT TO PARTY PARTY!!” The fun continues on “Save Your Breath”, which even takes a little rest mid song for a singalong section, before inciting riotous crowd action once more. Again, this is a band that has played together a huge amount, so they’re tighter than most bands. If you haven’t yet seen Zebrahead live, you need to get on that as soon as you physically can. But be sure to bring your energy, because you’re going to need it. And in bucketloads.
Like, massive ship sized buckets. If you haven’t lost your voice yet, Reel Big Fish are up next. But first, go to the bar. It’s criminal to see Reel Big Fish without a few beers (other forms of drink are available and allowed. I’m not your dad) Reel Big Fish are a band that time does not affect. Tonight’s set is arguably a “best of” set, and starts with their most famous cover of 80s classic “Take On Me” and again, sets up the set ahead, whipping the audience into a frenzy of beer soaked singing. “In the Pit” is almost like a set of instructions, setting ‘The Pit’ alight with passion, punches and kicks being thrown (safely, I should add, it didn’t seem like anybody actually got hurt, or even hit), until “Trendy” leads into the anthemic “Everyone Else Is An Asshole” which goes down about as well as you’d expect. Maybe a swig of beer helps it to go down even better, because there are folks here who have been stood off to the side quietly enjoying themselves that are now screaming along. Beautiful. “The big hit from the 90s” gets a huge pop when it’s teased, but the noise level for the line “Somebody once told me the world is gonna roll me...” (admit it, you sang that in your head) is incomparable. “All Star” is not Reel Big Fish’s song, of course, but it’s a very well received joke, even though it’s only a partial cover. Reel Big Fish tongue in cheek ska style has been entertaining the masses for years, and all signs point to them continuing to do so. “Sell Out” and “Monkey Man” continue toward the end of the set, and somehow there is still another band on after!
By this point, I have no voice left and I’m just exhausted, but somehow, when Less Than Jake come out, I’m ready to go again. “Gainesville Rock City” is the obvious opener, and again, the place erupted into chaos and circle pits. Every lyric is screamed back at the stage and the energy coming from the stage, as it has been all night, is reciprocated in style, with such vigour that if you stopped bouncing/running, you’d feel the floor bouncing underneath you. They fly through the set, making stops at “History of a Boring Town”, the specially requested “doozy” that is “Bomb Drop”, through to “She’s Gonna Break Soon”. Throughout, there is so much love pouring off the stage, with revolving special guests from the other bands’ horn sections becoming a theme of the night. Less than Jake and Reel Big Fish are self professed “brother bands” and that bond is an obvious theme throughout the evening, with all of the bands showing love for one another in a manner that befits the co-headliners. There’s a guy who gets pulled onto the stage. Dan. Dan is having so much fun tonight, and gets pulled on stage because of it. He teases a striptease and to be honest, I’m here for it. I want his two shirts off and to see him bounding the stage, headbanging and (quite unnecessarily trying) to whip the crowd up some more. I’ll be honest, by the time he goes off the stage, I’m a little let down; he didn’t remove any clothing. Gutted. The other guy that gets pulled onstage (I didn’t catch his name) isn’t as excited, he might be a little bit drunk. The obvious choice of “All My Friends Are Metalheads” closes the evenings procedures and takes the final bit of energy this crowd has got. Well, what’s left of the crowd. By this point, it’s almost 11, which means the last public transport is probably stopping very soon, and so the crowd dissipated pretty quickly. Those who remain make up for those who have left, and I find myself without a voice halfway through the song.
Tonight has been a night of good old fashioned fun. There’s no delusions of grandeur, no form of musical elitism, just a bunch of dudes having fun on the stage, and a huge crowd loving what’s on offer. Can this tour happen all the time please?