Review by Paul Quinton
After meeting for the first time when the two bands played at Download in 2014, singers Dan Reed and Danny Vaughn began what seems to be a close and, for fans, a very productive friendship. Firstly they joined for the richly enjoyable and entertaining ‘Snake Oil and Harmony Tour’ last year, and now the two bands are playing a brief tour, centred around their respective appearance at HRH AOR, as well as a gig each at the Robin, but also including a couple of double headlining shows. And speaking personally, whenever I am asked to name my favourite albums, Tyketto’s debut, Don’t Come Easy and the Network’s Slam album will both be among the first records listed, so seeing them play on the same bill was something that just had to happen.
The first of the double headers was at the Corporation in Sheffield, where proceedings were opened by up and coming Scottish band Estrella. Playing in front of a steadily expanding crowd, that would eventually result in a packed room, they gave us an entertaining half hour, but while they’re a good band with some good songs, they seem to fall between the two stools of 80s melodic rock and 70s British glam. A song like ‘We Will Go On’ is something Slade might have been proud of, and is a sign of how much promise the band have, and the crowd’s reaction showed what crowd pleasers they have in their set. Well worth keeping an eye out for.
The previous night in Bilston, the Dan Reed Network had played a headline show at The Robin that was the very definition of a curate’s egg. At times they were variously awesome, loose, tight, disorganised, plagued by equipment problems, and, on this evidence, under-rehearsed. Less than 24 hours later it was as if we were seeing a completely different band. Opening with Dan Reed almost screaming the intro to ‘Resurrect’, they were into their stride immediately, hitting a serious groove and not letting up throughout their hour long set. Following ‘Resurrect’ they played a couple of crowd pleasers in ‘Under My Skin’, and ‘Forgot To Make Her Mine’, both of which had the crowd in full voice, and at that point it would have been easy for them to carry on with their back catalogue songs, but they then had the confidence to include a new song. As Dan Reed explained, they’d recorded their first new music since the early 90s and a new album was due in June, Fight Another Day. The new song, ‘Divided’, was immediately recognisable as a Dan Reed Network song, with a good groove and chorus, although possibly with a harder edge than they’ve had before. I’ll go out on a limb and suggest it might prove to be a serious grower.
After that teaser, they turned the heat back up with perhaps their best loved song, ‘Rainbow Child’, and I will never be able to work out why this wasn’t a colossal hit single, followed by an immense reading of ‘Cruise Together’, which grew and grew as the band built on the original framework, until the crowd erupted at the climax of the song. One of the best things I’ve seen live in 2016 so far. After that, there was the small matter of a superb ‘Baby Now I’ to end the main set, during which the band went off at a tangent, working in parts of ‘I Was Made For Loving You’ and ‘Enter Sandman’. There was an encore, ‘Ritual’, inexplicably left out of the much longer set at The Robin, although that may have been for curfew reasons, but tonight bringing the show to a suitable finale. Great, great set.
Amazingly, it’s 25 years since Tyketto‘s debut album, the mighty Don’t Come Easy was released. Since then, it’s become a fixture in most melodic rock ‘Best Albums Ever’ lists, but amazingly, it didn’t catapult the band into the big league. Since then, the band have come and gone in various guises, although this line up, anchored by drummer Michael Clayton Arbeeny and singer Danny Vaughn, has been together for the past few years, including recording the Dig In Deep album in 2012. But tonight was all about Don’t Come Easy, celebrating its quarter century, not to mention its imminent rerelease on Rock Candy Records ,with a full live run through, albeit with a twist.
As Danny Vaughn explained at the start of the set, the album starts with ‘Forever Young’, the band’s finest hour, a candidate for Melodic Rock’s National Anthem, and, he joked, if they opened with that, they risked half the crowd going home. So they elected to play the album backwards, starting with the excellent album closer, ‘Sail Away’ and working from there. As decisions go, it was inspired, as it’s such a strong album, it works in almost any order and being able to close with such a tremendous song as ‘Forever Young’ works perfectly.
The opening of the set was held up slightly, with guitarist Chris Green’s pedal board having a mild fit of the vapours, but as soon as it was remedied, the set began with a huge welcome for the band, and it was if they had never been away. Obviously having such a tremendous set of songs helps, but the band’s performance was every bit as good as you could wish for. Even within the confines of playing the album, they still managed to put an individual stamp on it, including Chris Child’s bass solo in ‘Lay Your Body Down’ and Danny Vaughn including the acoustic guitar intro to ‘Walk On Fire’, which he is convinced he’s never played live before. Midway through, the band added ‘Walk Away’, recorded for the Don’t Come Easy sessions, but not included on the album and only used as the B-side to the single version of ‘Forever Young’. I can see why it never made the final cut of the album, good as it is, it doesn’t quite match up to the other songs.
After that, the songs from the first side of the album combined to make up the best 20 minutes of live music I’ve seen this year. ‘Standing Alone’, as ever, was emotional, with the crowd in full voice, ‘Seasons’ was quite, quite brilliant, and the inevitable climax of ‘Forever Young’ gave The Corporation’s roof as serious a test of its stability as it can have had for quite a while. There was an encore, ‘Love To Love’, from the band’s last album, ‘Dig In Deep’, and it was pleasing that this also went down really well, which is a welcome sign of how the band aren’t just content to rely on past glories and are still able to release quality records. On that note, Danny Vaughn was also pleased to announce that the band were about to go into the studio to start recording another album, again something that received a loud cheer of approval. It’s good that the band feel confident enough, especially in the current climate, to release new work, but I couldn’t help thinking that, for such a superb live act, it’s a shame they don’t have a definitive live album. The shows they’ve been playing over the last couple of years would certainly be worth recording, so how about it, chaps?
In summary, a great bill that pulled in good crowds for all the shows on the tour, and these crowds were rewarded with some seriously fine music. Rumour has it both bands will be back in the UK this year. Definitely something to look forward to.