Photos & review: Reef + When Rivers Meet & Electric Milk – Portsmouth Guildhall, March 13

Photos & review: Reef + When Rivers Meet & Electric Milk – Portsmouth Guildhall, March 13

words and pictures by Peter Nicholson

I had hoped to see Reef at their Bournemouth show earlier this month, but that performance, along with others, was cancelled at the last minute because bass player Jack Bessant had been taken to hospital with a head injury. So it was a relief to see Jack back on stage at the Guildhall in Portsmouth. Jack did seem a little subdued when compared to times I’d seen Reef play live previously, but this didn’t stop this energetic band continuing to give the audience what they’d come for.

The huge sound from this very experienced four-piece was as big as ever. Guitar rock at its best, powering through the set list with amazing solos and undiminished enthusiasm. The vocals from Gary Stringer were as distinctive as ever and had lost none of its dominance in the sound. Gary was clearly still enjoying his time on stage and was smiling throughout. 

The band had pulled in two support acts for the Portsmouth gig. First up was Electric Milk who are a local band who warmed up the early crowd with some guitar-based originals. Next on stage were a band I plan to see next month when they return to Southampton, When Rivers Meet.

Playing as duo rather than the full band, they certainly showed why they’ve won so many awards over the last few years. The UK Blues Awards honoured them four times at the same ceremony in 2021, the first band to achieve such a feat. They then went on receive three more awards in 2022, and two more awards from Planet Rock. I could certainly see why.

This husband and wife duo was superb. Aaron, armed with only a guitar and a stomp box, filled the room with some heavy and melodic blues rock, while Grace’s vocal added to the huge sound. That girl can sing! The two share an obvious chemistry on stage, rather predictably, and clearly love what they do. They played with passion, personality and even humour when Aaron’s cigar box guitar string decided to break at the end of one of the tracks. I’m excited to hear the duo play with the full band next month.

If you get chance to see any of the bands from the show, I’m sure you’ll have a great night.


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