Reef / Crashland / Wilt – Manchester Academy – 2.12.00

With this age of technology and cross-pollination of musical genres you’d forgiven for thinking that the last thing on people’s minds are the songs. Gone are the days when a band would simply consist of the usual guitars, bass, drums and vocals but the 3 bands on display tonight want to bring some songs back to rock music.

Wilt, clearly the band with most to gain on this tour. Very much seen as a critic’s band they have gone from playing a handful of support slots over the past few months to on average 2000 people a night on this tour. Fresh from seeing AC/DC the previous night, the band seem to have smoothed out any rough edges from the last tour and end each song with true rock star panache.

All dressed in black, more suburban angst than Goth makeover, they belt out what at first seems like pleasant Foo Fighters styled rock. Delve a bit deeper into their mindset however and you’ll find a dark tales from the rockers previously known as Kerbdog. On songs like recent single “No Worries” and “Radio Disco” is easy to see that the lyrical influences lie more in the 80’s with bands like The Smiths and ‘The Mary Chain. It may not be innovative, but they’ve got tunes by the bucketful and that’s something sadly lacking in the current rock scene.

If Wilt simply warmed up the crowd, then it was Crashland that set the place on fire. Walking onstage to “The Sound Of Music” it segues perfectly into former single “New Perfume”. Although offstage the band may be monosyllabic morons the 3 piece tend to revel in the live shows. For those few who own the album “Glued”, it’s a virtual straight run through the tracklisting from the 2-minute punk classic of “Little Dreams” through to the Bowie-esque future single “Waiting For Someone”.

Filling the gap between the dull as ditchwater Stereophonics and the Holy Bible period Manics we get the best elements of both acts. The intellectual lyrics of the Manics without the elitism of the glamour brigade mixed with the crossover appeal of Kelly Jones & co. While it may be cool to have that rock star arrogance the only way they will make it to the big league is by playing the media game.

Reef are a band that have never sustained my interest for long, but tonight with a near greatest hits set I leave impressed. Starting off with the early classic “Naked”, the only fault I have is with Gary Stringer - If you walked to the end of the earth you really couldn’t find a more irritating monkey boy (that is unless you count the bass player).

Throughout the night “Place Your Hands On”, “Set The Record Straight”, “Superhero” and “Good Times” are knocked out as a series of perfectly placed highs. With a backing vocalist on hand to enhance the weaker moments it’s only the album track “Solid” that truly disappoints. The ballads “All I Want” and “Level” are sure to be future singles and in a just world would go straight to number 1 ahead of Westlife. In the real world they’ll probably go Top 20 then fall out of the charts.

A great set but you’re left wondering how many albums they’ve got left in them. An educated guess would be one more followed quickly by a greatest hits compilation and a farewell tour. What’s really apparent through out the whole of tonight is that each band may not be the coolest to name drop, but they sure can write classic tunes.

Alex McCann