Reel Big Fish / Skindred / Matches - 53 Degrees Preston - 9.9.06

Matches may have a striking image with a bowler hatted frontman and fuzzy haired guitarist, full of energetic showmanship with riffs on par with Slash and a sound not unlike Rage Against The Machine, but the tunes just don't cut it. These American chaps look like the type of band who'd play in the bait shop on US teen drama The OC and despite promising closing song "Signal Or Suicide" these guys still need to improve to make a good impression on this side of the pond.

He's black, Welsh and mad as a hatter, which is why we love Benji, the larger than life frontman of the metal, rap and reggae tinged combo Skindred. He works the crowd effortlessly as his band mates perform tightly on drums, bass and guitar amongst the samples with the fans finding it impossible to resist. It's a melting pot of diversity with ragga and dance beats moulded naturally to a hard rock, frenetic sound. Benji aint no shy guy, his bellowing voice and undeniable affinity to the crowd is genuinely touching. The songs are utterly captivating like "Set It Off" which has the sweat soaked ridiculously youthful crowd on a legal high as they playfully jostle around in a sea of bodies. Skindred even make a choir of Preston as Benji weaves his magical musical abilities on "No Pressure". Finishing with "Nobody Out" Skindred leave the stage like conquering heroes.

Reel Big Fish are proud members of the nerd herd who include Wheatus, They Might Be Giants and Barenaked Ladies as close mental cousins if not musically. Tolerable at a festival or as a support act RBF outstay their welcome when on stage for a good ninety minutes. The eternally jolly American ska fused six piece play tracks off their new album "We're Not Happy Because You're Not Happy" which is hardly a departure from their trademark sound, but the fans seem to love it. New single "Don't Stand A Band" is typical of the band, with the brass section larking about, the singer being wacky while the bass player stands on looking bored throughout. Lyrically these yanks surprisingly have a grasp on irony with "She Has A Girlfriend Now" raising an occasional smile with catchy hooks and amusing word play. A cover of A-Ha's "Take On Me" is always entertaining with the encore track "Sell Out" a good choice to end with.

Reel Big Fish will never be taken seriously which is the point of embracing that inner geek, but the lack of variety in the songs is a little lazy and the over familiarity of the set becomes tiresome.

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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