On a blistery cold Monday in January, the Fish returned to Chicago to once again rock the House of Blues stage. They are still on the road supporting their most recent album, Candy Coated Fury. Almost six months ago to the day they were here at the House of Blues debuting tracks of that album. Being the road warriors that they are, a short six months isn’t a big deal for them to be coming back to a town that has always truly supported them.
A second time around usually means not as big of a crowd as the first time and this held true. In July of last year the House of Blues was packed to the gills and maybe even sold out. This time there was a lot more room but still a very decent crowd. I was able to catch a few songs by The Pilfers but not enough to give a true critique. Finally at eight pm the curtain opened to the tune of the Theme from the original Superman movie and the members of Reel Big Fish took the stage. They opened with the snappy number, “Everyone Else is an Asshole.” This got the crowd into a frenzy and started the first of many sing alongs.
Reel Big Fish were formed in 1992 but didn’t burst onto the scene until the late nineties ska revival and had a major hit in 1997 with “Sell Out.” That song as usual got the crowd even more into a happy uproar of dancing and bouncing all over the House of Blues. Their set wasn’t too different than the one from July but it definitely lacked the excitement and energy that they had at that show. Not saying that there wasn’t any energy because these guys have a lot of fun when they are on stage and they wear it on their sleeve. Lead singer Aaron Barrett can’t be contained and constantly runs laps all over the stage with guitar in hand. I just think that they were a tad more into their first leg of this current tour and it is starting to show a little bit.
The one liners and wise cracks between band members was still there as always and they threw pieces of popular songs into their own songs, including the refrain from “Call Me Maybe.” If you are not familiar with Reel Big Fish’s material the best way to describe what their songs are about is either drinking or ex-girlfriends. They never changed their style and their content and that is what I love about them. You cannot help but smile when you are at a Reel Big Fish show and it carries for the rest of the night. There’s nothing like leaving a live show and having a good vibe stay with you.
One thing that has always been consistent with Reel Big Fish is cover songs. They always like to pull out a good cover tune and they record their versions of classic songs on almost every album. This night they pulled out their rendition of the When in Rome classic, “The Promise.” That song also appears on their album, Candy Coated Fury. We also got treated to a little bit of the Darth Vader theme from Star Wars after a guitar versus trombone battle, in which trombonist, Dan Regan pulled out the popular anthem and guitarist Aaron Barrett conceded. He gave up stating, “I can’t compete with Star Wars.”
Throughout the night Barrett kept teasing asking if they did “Sell Out” yet and he would start the riff. He did this a few times and it’s this kind of goofy humor that makes their live shows a lot of fun. The best line was when he introduced a song stating, “This one is from the late 1900’s.” He pulled that line out a couple times, and even though the songs might be almost twenty years old they still sounded as fresh as ever. The show ended on a high note with their classic cover of Ah Ha’s “Take on Me.”
I am really glad these guys come to Chicago often and I hope they will be on Riot Fest later this summer. If you enjoy ska and good times then I highly recommend going to see Reel Big Fish next time they are in town.
Reviewed by Todd Anthony on 1/21/13