Of all the recent reunions, perhaps the one that I personally was pleased about the most was the reformation of American funk rock outfit, Dan Reed Network. Guns N’ Roses? Meh, but some bodacious funk from Mr Reed and his band of brothers? Where do I sign? Always an incredible live act, I was itching to find out if the Network still had their mojo. Before the main course though, there was the starter, British melodic rockers, Vega.
Hitching your wagon to the melodic rock genre can be a risky business in this country. It might take a while for you to remember the last successful British melodic rock band. It tends to be America that springs to mind when melodic rock is mentioned, Def Leppard being the exception to this. It’s fair to say that Vega would go down a storm in the US. They tick all the right boxes. Good looking guys, confident frontman, and catchy, commercial music, but one thing that Vega have to make them stand out from the crowded marketplace is the guitars. So many melodic rockers overload on the keyboards and forsake the guitars, but thankfully Vega go the opposite way and push lead guitarist Marcus Thurston front and centre. His playing is exemplary, especially on ‘Fade Into The Flames’, where he really shines. Mix his fretboard wizardry in with the pomp of commercial nuggets like ‘Stereo Messiah’, ‘Every Little Monster’, ‘White Flag’, and the majestic ‘Saving Grace’, then you’re on to a winner. Add charismatic frontman Nick Workman into the mix, and what you get is 45 minutes of heart-on-the-sleeve anthemic rock. The band have a strong fanbase that is out in force tonight and making themselves heard by shouting, screaming and singing along with every word. So when Workman mentions, mid set, that as the support act they “…are the foreplay before the shag”, quite a few volunteers thrust their hands in the air and offer their services. All in the name of rock n’ roll, I might add. A polished performance from yet another band proving that British rock is still very much alive and kicking.
Ah…Dan Reed Network, how we have missed you. One of my fondest gig memories is watching the band blow the power at a club gig in Glasgow on the ‘Slam’ tour, decades ago. So much energy was flowing from the stage that they literally blew the fuses and cut the power. Every live show after that, the band just got better and better, the ‘Heat’ tour being another highlight. So when I hear a piper starting up ‘Scotland The Brave’, I figure that someone has it as their ringtone… a very loud ringtone. Feeling a tap on my shoulder I turn round and the politest security guard ever is asking me to move aside as he leads a piper in full highland regalia through the crowd. Following the piper is Dan Reed Network, smiling, shaking hands, high fiving and in some instances, a sneaky kiss or two. Once the band are safely on stage, it’s apparent that Dan Reed, guitarist Brion James and bassist Melvin Brannon II are all wearing kilts. As far as entrances go, this is right up there with Freddie Mercury aloft Darth Vader’s shoulders. After mischievously keeping the poor piper going for a few minutes more, Reed finally lets him stop and take a breath. As the piper exits stage left, Dan Reed Network kick into the opening song and instantly set the tone for the following two hours… only the blooming Kiss chestnut, ‘Rock And Roll All Nite’! The crowd does indeed go wild, in what easily could have been an encore, instead it’s the opening song.
What’s immediately noticeable is the chemistry between the old friends. It’s like they’re back in a garage, decades ago, practicing for the first time. Normal service is resumed as they (ahem) slam into ‘Under My Skin’ from the 1989 album ‘Slam’, then it’s straight into ‘Forgot To Make Her Mine’ from the eponymous 1988 debut. Dan Reed is all over the stage, enjoying the freedom that wearing a kilt allows, happy to report for the front row’s sake that he has not gone commando. Clearly enjoying himself, he’s shaking hands with everyone at the front, giving them the mic to get them to sing, doing anything to break down any barriers between the artist and their audience. Pausing to allow the band to catch their breath, he mentions that tonight is going to be a long one, and they’ll play whatever people want, so the requests are shouted out. ‘Resurrect’ and ‘Baby Now I’ seem to be popular choices so the band oblige with one after the other, and then the fun begins. Half way through the latter, as Dan Reed sings the line ‘Baby Now I’, the band jump headfirst into another Kiss gem! This time it’s, what else but, ‘I Was Made For Loving You’. Then it’s ‘Enter Sandman’, ‘Relax’, ‘Voodoo Chile’ amongst a few bars of ‘Let’s Groove’. Kiss, ‘Tallica, Hendrix and Frankie Goes To Hollywood, all in a few minutes, before ending with some Earth, Wind & Fire…..nice! Melvin Brannon II brings the funk as he breaks into a short bass solo before the band finally ease into the finale of ‘Baby Now I’. A magical five minutes.
From here on in it’s classic after classic, with ‘Ritual’ and ‘Rainbow Child’ standing out as always. ‘Come Back Baby’ is another request as is ‘I’m Lonely Please Stay’, which causes some good-natured wind ups between bandmates as they try to figure out what key it’s in. The crowd are lapping it up. It’s a celebratory evening, and if I was to make a comparison, then it would be with the famous scene in The Blues Brothers movie when Jake and Elwood go to church and it’s James Brown as the pastor. Except tonight no-one is doing backflips and the dancing is shit. Curfew is looming as ‘Seven Sisters Road’ fades out and Dan Reed Network take their bows. The house music comes on, and everyone starts to troop out thinking that’s it, but thankfully, the band return for a stunning acappella version of ‘Long Way To Go’. Drummer Dan Pred and Rob Daiker on the keyboards come out from behind their instruments and join in. Search for it on YouTube, it’s spine tingling. As the clock strikes 11pm, the piper returns to start up ‘Flower Of Scotland’ and leads Dan Reed Network off stage and back through the crowd.A few blasts of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and suddenly it’s Hogmanay again and folk are linking arms… slightly surreal! As I’m standing, contemplating what kebab to get from next door on the way out, Dan Reed walks past me drenched in sweat, the smile on his face said it all… you literally had to be there.
Dan Reed Network continue their tour with dates through to March 15th in Nottingham, you might not get the kilts but you’ll get one hell of an evening.
Review: Dave Stott
Images: ©Martin Bone Photography – Used with permission.