Preview: Rock/newcomers: Doing the boy band walk

Reef

Plymouth Pavillions

Tonight

What does a band wanting to break into mainstream consciousness do? Look no further than for the answer - take their musical influence, the sixties band Free, and make an amalgam, do an advertisement soundtrack for the largest music company, a weekly slot in Chris Evans' TFI Friday, support gigs for those middle-of-the-mainstream masters Paul Weller and The Rolling Stones and a rockumentary spoof for Carlton's The Beat. Easy.

Having jostled into the sing-a-long bracket via the force of sublime marketing, the difficulty for is proving that they are a genuine article. Easy - combine long and lank hair, jeans and T-shirt, blasting vocals and musical influences from Led Zeppelin guitars to AC/DC attitude and conjure up an image a world away from slick. The real challenge, however, is how four Westcountry boys have managed sophisticated tweaking of media and hype but kept themselves independent from the products they have been tied too - so much so that have two chart-busting albums and a string of hits to their name but are still obscure enough to drop as a cool music reference.

"One minute we were playing to 80 people at the Kings Head in Fulham, the next we were appearing in front of thousands at the Royal Albert Hall," says Gary Stringer, lead singer. appear to have done the boy band walk to fame with a peculiar twist of talent which has given them a different fate. In 1994 a demo tape sent to Sony's S2 label prompted two top video directors to be dispatched down to the house they shared near Osterley Park. The Sony call had them recording some material on the early television commercials for Sony's Minidisc player.

Next on the agenda was a tongue-in-cheek "rockumentary" with DJ and presenter Gary Crowley, support on Paul Weller's Wildwood tour and The Rolling Stone's secret jaunt at The Albert Hall. Their debut album Replenish garnered a No 9 chart position and bookings at Glastonbury, Reading, Phoenix and T in the Park. They again followed down well trodden paths, enrolling the legendary producer George Drakoulias and the Abbey Road studios to produce Glow which went straight to No 1 and Gold status.

To see live is like putting yourself in the middle of lots of top- of-the-range speakers (Sony of course), an energetic stage presence that would make Chris Evans look small and a strut that defies anyone to murmur the words - riding on the back of a marketing machine. Previous misdemeanours, like stuffing CDs down fans' chests, catching pneumonia from jumping in Scottish lochs and illegal fly posting over Take That posters suggest the real will be more interesting than the hype they have momentarily generated.

At Plymouth Pavillions, Millbay Road, Plymouth, PL1 3LF (01752 229922).

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