Reel Big Fish take us back to the 90s at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire
For a couple of hours at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire it could’ve been 1998 again. The reason? The mad musical styling of ska superstars Reel Big Fish.
With Hawaiian shirts, trombones and a love of the ska music that made their name that radiates out from the stage, Reel Big Fish have a tendency to make you forget yourself in their music, it was the same here where fans could’ve been dancing away to the band in their prime at the end of the last millennium.
Upbeat songs, sing-alongs, jokes to whip up the crowd, already in a frenzy of jumping and skanking. Nothing has really changed in the Reel Big Fish formula, which is what makes it work.
It may be with a sense of nostalgia that we now greet Aaron Barrett, but it is this simplicity and purity of motive that makes them so fun. None of the crowd are here for lengthy solos or experimental songs from a new album. It’s for the fun factor, the desire to just lose oneself in music which lacks any cynicism.
The set features all Fish fans favourite tunes including ‘Beer’, ‘Sellout’ and a superb cover of A-Ha’s ‘Take On Me’. The crowd going particularly wild for a cover of Toots and The Maytails ‘Monkey Man’, popularised in the UK first by The Specials and then the late Amy Winehouse.
Their live performance is so full of joy that there’s never really time to rest for the whole performance, with the warmth of the Shepherd’s Bush Empire providing quite a contrast to the freezing snowy conditions outside.
Reel Big Fish then do not go in for the unexpected, but their enthusiasm for a joyous and now neglected style of music does make one rather wish that it were the late 90s again.
Photos: Keira Cullinane