Review by Paul H Birch
Hollowstar are a young modern heavy rock four piece with sharp chord changes, an ear for a melody and a couple of guitarists with individual sounds, as evidenced on ‘I’m Gonna Let You Down’. Their bass player/vocalist is chuffed to be on this tour; feeling and spreading the love. They end with a number called ‘Bye, Bye Baby Goodbye’ that comes across like Rory Gallagher and Geezer Butler making some hellish pact at the crossroads round about midnight. Rather good in other words.
My better half describes them as “Quite Nirvana-esque.” Her comparison draws a blank look from me, although she obviously enjoyed them. She’s even fonder of Mason Hill, especially “the guitarist with the long hair.” Dan Reed himself walks on stage to introduce them, telling us how he met the singer a few years back, kept in touch, and is pleased the Glaswegians are now out on tour with them.
Cue an intro tape and a tall thin lead singer with a rough high-ended larynx that has me thinking The Associates’ Billy Mackenzie meets Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil, though that changes and becomes huskier as the band form around him and the five piece metal act strut and stomp. Her ladyship compares them to AC/DC and I begin to worry about her because they go well beyond your basic three chord rock affair. The guitarist she fancies plays in a kind of Slash-might-join-Metallica manner, the drummer’s pretty nifty, the bass player likes a good pose and the other guitarist’s primarily rhythm. Third number in, the singer informs us Mr Reed appears in their video for ‘Hold On’, a heavy groove number. During the set we get more slow shimmery rock, heavy riffage and a sparkly mod psych section that becomes a clap along. They finish with Audioslave’s ‘Cochise’ and while they hit all the right notes it feels a little out of context.
Regardless, two support bands with good crowds in attendance and some healthy applause handed out to them, fingers crossed for both their futures. A few years back no one thought they’d ever see the Dan Reed Network (DRN) again, now it’s like they’ve become a regular fixture here in the UK. Fortunately, complacency hasn’t set in and while there are pre-requisite numbers to be played other tunes have been swopped, set lists moved around etc. Tribal rhythms push out from the PA, and are added to once Dan Pred sits at his drum kit and Reed lets out some primal screams down the mic as the band collectively give it large with smoky guitar notes easing through over a deep thumping bass for ‘Rock You All Night Long’ and fans singing along right from the start.
With such rapture felt, it’s pretty early in the evening for Reed to offer mixed blessings as he tells us the band will be taking time off from playing live next year, with Reed concentrating on his solo act, the band as a whole writing for a new album then looking to put in some special shows to mark their anniversary together in 2020. In hindsight, though not a favourite track of mine, ‘Divided’ is an apt track to play next, with Brion James nicely to the forefront and taking centre stage to solo.
Pred has apparently mislaid his set list and it’s a cue for Reed to take the mickey out of the drummer, who’s offered bottled water, towels and back rubs. It’s a fun moment though as the evening wears in smoothly you suspect there may be a number of staged humorous moments taking place along with more genuine ad libs. Either way, its old school chums jibing on each other and we get to share the moments. But we came here for the music and things hot up for a powerful rendition of ‘Forgot To Make her Mine’. Muscular funk rock at its finest, come the chorus the crowd give full voice.
Reed jigs busily round the stage during ‘Under My Skin’ and there are more inter-band jokes before ‘Doing The Love Thing’ gets a rare airing. From afro rhythms to a slow funk meltdown it’s more Michael Jackson over an addictive bass pop before Brion James’ chilled squealing guitar solo turns up the gas. Reed raps, sings, dances and gestures emphasising vocal lines throughout.
Rob Daiker’s keyboards mingle with James’ guitar to lead into ‘Baby Now’ and about ten blokes of a certain age begin bopping about a little to my foreground on the right. Melvin Brannon II turns in a bass solo with hammer-ons and pulls, galloping along with funky triplets as Pred joins along for an brief take on Zep’s ‘The Immigrant Song’, it’s followed by double-handed tapping and harmonics, meaning the only thing left to do is play his instrument over his head. As the band join in we get excerpts of Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’, Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘Relax’, and Earth, Wind & Fire’s ‘Let’s Groove’ before slamming back into the main song with James delivering jazz metal scale rundowns set on stun. “Thanks for singing along,” smiles Reed, “that was beautiful!”
‘Champion’ is about “spending time with positive people” and while I dig that, on record it didn’t really cut if for me. Live it’s a different matter, moving from mannered strut over a hymn like melody with a pop hook chorus that builds quite hypnotically. Once over Reed introduces the band and Pred takes hold of the mic in one hand to sing Van Halen’s take on ‘Ice Cream Man’ his other paw bashing away at his kit as the band join. Another rehearsed aside? What the hell, I’ve seen a lot worse comedy acts.
With rocking metal guitar and chunky keyboards ‘Tiger In a Dress’ has the frontline all harmonising on vocals along with audience participation before the threesome start pogoing like Tigger. Reed’s t-shirt gets sweatier by the moment, singing his heart out one minute throwing shapes the next – From where I stand he looks like The Rock auditioning for David Carradine’s role in a remake of classic TV show Kung Fu. He steps to the side to sing backing as James lays down metal ska lines and sings ‘Save the World’, green lights washing over the audience; the sea of blokes dancing badly has grown, the fairer sex mingling contentedly among them.
Having rocked up for ‘Get to You’ they take things down ‘For Stronger Than Steel’, a popular wedding song apparently – A sultry sterling guitar solos in AOR power balladry with some incredibly impressive use of passing notes produced during the actual song. ‘One Last Time’ grooves with sustained power chords driven over it and there’s a heavy sonic pulse and rumbling rock funk amid shouts of “Who-hey-ah” for ‘Ritual’.
Tight and so well rehearsed in part they can still seemingly shake things up at a moment’s notice, Reed still bobbing and weaving and spreading good vibes aplenty. They’re a bit too diverse at times for the former rock chick beside me but she’s captivated by the final number, as just Reed and James sing ‘All My Lovin’’ a cappella style. A touching gospel ending to a lengthy evening of good music, strong showmanship and a fair few laughs too.
- Rock You All Night Long
- Forgot to Make Her Mine
- Under My Skin
- Doin’ the Love Thing
- Baby Now I
- Rainbow Child
- Ice Cream Man
- Tiger in a Dress
- Save the World
- Get to You
- Stronger Than Steel
- One Last Time
- All My Lovin’