The Corporation have a battle on their hands to remain Sheffield’s premier rock club.
Yet another rival, The Plug, has appeared in a town already boasting lots of superb gig venues, and the Corp, never a place to bow to pressure, has gone on the offensive. Local buses are plastered with ads and they’ve got posters absolutely everywhere. However they really have got nothing to worry about – so long as they keep putting on bands as good as Reuben.
Opening proceedings are a couple of outfits from Derry – The Mascara Story, and Fighting With Wire. The Mascara Story, only a year together, recently won the Snickers Unsigned competition. When you think of how many unsigned bands there are (does anyone NOT know at least three people in one of them?) such a band should, by sheer probability, be incredible. Unfortunately they’re just a bit dull, treading out the same emo conventions as so many other artists. They’re tight, yes, but so, so ordinary.
In fact the cynic in me sees a nice, safe choice that corporates Mars and Emap (publishers of Kerrang!) felt would fit the marketing profile of their customers. That said, there’s a small Derry contingent in the crowd tonight and the band go down well – and whilst the emo bubble has yet to burst they could have a strong future.
The Mascara Story seem to lack the confidence which their fellow Northern-Irelanders, Fighting With Wire, have in abandon. Frontman Cahir O’Doherty wastes no time in getting chatty with the crowd. Announcing cheerfully that no English person will understand a word he’s saying due to his thick Derry accent, he indeed becomes cheerfully incomprehensible as his band deliver half an hour of enthusiastic rock n’ roll anthems. Coming on like an Irish Foo Fighters, with a splash of Fugazi and a bucketload of confidence, they could be heading for a good year.
When Reuben hit the stage it becomes immediately obvious that they’ve brought some devoted fans with them, and by all evidence they deserve it. Kicking straight into Some Mothers Do ‘Ave Em, from latest album Very Fast, Very Dangerous, they immediately own the stage. Even a welcome cameo from the dynamic ex-Million Dead singer Frank Turner can’t upstage them tonight, as they are on very good form indeed.
Reuben are Loud – everything about their sound seems geared up to make the maximum noise permitted with the volume at their disposal. Their quintessentially English, “If Paul Heaton had liked heavy rock”-style morality tales clearly hit a chord with the audience, too.
In fact, the front half of the Corp is singing along so loud that frontman Jamie Lenman could simply not bother and you’d still make out every word at the back. Their 50 minute set, dominated by material from the new album, is electric. Whilst Jamie huddles earnestly over the microphone, bassist Jon Pearce glides around the stage with a cocksure swagger perfectly mirroring Reuben’s mix of poignant social commentary and out-and-out dirty rock n’ roll. In between the punk swagger of A Kick in the Mouth and the stoner-rock groove of Blamethrower come a couple of the ballads. Jamie even announces Best Enemies as a ‘quiet song’, which is as much a lie as it may be the (relative) truth. Although Reuben don’t do quiet, though, it doesn’t make their softer moments any less heartfelt and effective.
Of all the great home-grown heavy rock bands today, Reuben seem to have captured a sense of Englishness so perceptive and so integral to their sound that they sound like a loud, angry voice for the conscience of the nation. Tonight they are fantastic. In fact, feeling the devotion of the audience this evening, it’s hard to imagine them becoming anything less than huge.