Review by Paul Quinton
After taking a lengthy break from music and the business in the 90s, Dan Reed is now a regular visitor to these shores, and if a part of me still yearns for the glory days of the Dan Reed Network, one of the best live bands I ever saw, it’s just good to see a man of his huge talent back on stage.
The advertised support band, Heinz Sight (insert your own baked bean jokes here if you must) didn’t seem to have turned up by the advertised start time, but not long afterwards a single musician appeared, announced himself as ‘Simon, one quarter of Heinz Sight’ and proceeded to give us about twenty five minutes of, it has to be said, some fairly unremarkable acoustic songs. He could obviously play, and the songs were enjoyably quirky in their own way, but his voice wasn’t really strong enough to sell them. What had happened to the rest of the band, we were never told.
Since he restarted his career a few years ago, Dan Reed has concentrated more on the songwriting aspect of his music than the sometimes incendiary funk-rock of the Network days, and his new album Signal Fire carries that theme on. If Simon from Heinz Sight had played to a sparse but growing crowd, then by the time the Dan Reed Band walked on stage, the Academy 3 had filled up nicely, and were greeted by a huge cheer. Mr. Reed is no fool, he knows people want to hear the older stuff, and as he promised, there was plenty of that in the set, although he introduced the gig with what he described as something mellower, All I Need Is You from the new album. He may have described it as mellow, but it was quite a lot sprightlier and, dare I say, funkier than on the album. The same went for the next few songs, all newer material, including a terrific reading of Coming Up For Air, with Dan not only showing what a great singer he is but also his startlingly young-looking band providing great backing. Apparently bassist Carl Sweeney had only been recruited three days before the tour started.
The first harkening to the past came five songs in, with the crowd going into raptures at hearing the distinctive opening guitar lick of Rainbow Child. It seemed to be subtly rearranged from the original to fit more with the current direction, but it was a joy to hear live again, and instantly took the gig to a whole new level. A temporary return to the present, Losing My Faith, was followed by a brief drum solo from Robert Irfiz. The band raised the temperature yet again with an absolutely terrific You Are My Ritual, which not only featured the crowd in full voice for the first time but also included a lengthy instrumental middle section that was reminiscent of Joe Bonamassa, with Rob Daiker playing some very nice guitar.
Avalanche continued the trend of the live versions having much more fire than on record, before the band vacated the stage for Dan to give us some solo versions of Stronger Than Steel and All My Loving. For all the excellence of the music, it was at this point he generated by far the biggest cheer of the night when, in referring to the reunion gigs the Network had played in Portland over the New Year, announced they would play their first show in the UK for over twenty years at a small festival in Essex in October later this year. A one-off show is unlikely to meet the demand to see the band again, and he made it clear that if it was a success, the band would return for more shows in 2014. Now that’s something to look forward to.
The band re-entered for Avalanche, before returning to the Network back catalogue for a fiery I’m So Sorry, with some more excellent work from Rob Daiker, and to close the show, a phenomenal Get To You, so ridiculously funky you can only imagine the likes of Level 42 shaking their heads in bewildered frustration. There was a single encore of Brave New World and they were gone. A fine show, and more than enough to make you hope Dan Reed returns to these shores and soon; while, the news that there’s a real possibility that the Dan Reed Network will also be back to the UK next year put the seal on a good evening.
Dan Reed Band Set List:- All I Need Is You/Signal Fire/Only Love/Coming Up For Air/Rainbow Child/Losing My Fear/Ritual/Avalanche/Stronger Than Steel/All My Loving/ Indestructible/I’m So Sorry/End Of The World/Closer/Get To You/Brave New World