Time does funny things. Before their split in 2008, alternative rock band Reuben were enjoying a decent, but not stellar, spell – like so many bands, they never quite got the recognition or status that they perhaps deserved. However, in the intervening years, while their frontman Jamie Lenman embarked on a hugely successful career as an acclaimed illustrator, something changed. Their three album legacy influenced a succession of like-minded bands, and the sustained love they received eventually drew Lenman back into the musical world as a solo artist, slowly working on 2013’s Muscle Memory. Following that success with last year’s Devolver, he is now finally receiving the adulation that he always deserved.
Joining Lenman on this tour are two Brighton bands, Loa Loa and Gender Roles (recently signed to Big Scary Monsters, the same label as Lenman). Loa Loa opened up tonight, and their set proved what we all know – they are one of the most exciting bands in town right now. Frontman Josh Rowley is a force of nature, knees buckling at the force of tracks such as ‘Monet’ and latest single ‘Give Me What I Want’ (which continues to grow in size, sounding more massive every time they play it). Now, let’s get an album guys!
Following them, Gender Roles. The trio seem tighter every time they turn out, and tonight is no exception. The finale to ‘Plastic’ is crushingly good, while ‘Teeth’ hits you in the stomach with its quiet/loud dynamic working in the same way as Pixies. Frontman Tom Bennett looks increasingly like a future star, and the added exposure of this tour as well as their signing to Big Scary Monsters will surely be preparing them well for exciting days to come.
As drummer Dan Kavanagh strode onto stage, and the twitchy rhythm of ‘Hardbeat’ filled the room, the reaction from an on-point crowd was instantaneously fierce. The build to the ferocious drum solo was like waiting for a towering wave to crash and, when it came, it swept the room away. ‘Hell In A Fast Car’ was just as pitiless, pounding and stomping with its message that: “Rock and roll is all about the fresh and new, why would you do something someone else did do?” From there, the accelerator stayed at full throttle – the first of a handful of Reuben numbers, ‘A Kick In The Mouth’ brought Lenman’s career full circle, while the hardcore rampage of ‘One Of My Eyes Is A Clock’ forced the first circle pit into action. All the while, his warm and witty chat between songs was bringing a convivial atmosphere to an already loved-up room.
What followed was the very essence of Jamie Lenman’s enduring appeal. High quality musicianship (swapping instruments with Kavanagh during ‘Waterloo Teeth’), the more emotive almost folk-rock of tracks such as ‘Little Lives’ and ‘Bad Friend’, and then moments such as ‘Every Time A Teenager Listens To Drum & Bass A Rockstar Dies’, a track so huge it had Loa Loa’s Rowley dashing from balcony to join the broiling throng of a moshpit on the floor beneath. Closing on the painfully raw open wound of ‘Mississippi’, it felt like an almost cathartic release and a moment that could never be topped. Suitably, the encore took a different mood altogether with Lenman working through a generous solo section on just a semi-acoustic guitar. As couples smooched, and the bevvied-up lads got emotional in their huddles, tracks like ‘It’s Hard To Be A Gentleman’ ensured the night finished on a warm and fuzzy note – just reward for Jamie Lenman, a man whose time is most definitely now.