Review by Paul Quinton
The story goes that when Dan Reed was asked in around 2010 whether he’d ever consider reforming the Network, he sounded very doubtful, thinking that too much time had passed and the individual members were far too old for that kind of thing. Well here we are in 2017, and this tour in support of their new album Fight Another Day is at least their fifth visit to these shores in the last four or so years, and anyone thinking that this band are too old really needs to have a good long think. A lot of the dates on this tour were either sold out or very close to selling out, and a packed Robin was testament to the band’s renewed popularity in this incarnation.
Support on most of the tour is Vega, with this date following immediately a very well received set at HRH AOR in North Wales. It was good to see the Robin already pretty full when they took the stage, and again indicative of a growing reputation, opener ‘Stereo Messiah’ got a big cheer and the crowd needed little persuasion to join in on the chorus to ‘Kiss of Life’. The ballad ‘Gonna Need Some Love Tonight’ also went down really well, as did what’s become a bit of an anthem for the band, ‘Hands in the Air’, and although the band’s efforts to get the whole room involved came to little it’s obvious Vega are starting to build up a following. One thing I did notice was that after being on the road with this tour for several days, as well as the HRH show, Nick Workman’s voice was starting to show a bit of wear around the edges, but the band were admirably tight, and on this showing they could well be making some bigger waves in the future. Watch this space.
The last time the Dan Reed Network played the Robin, prior to their joint tour with Tyketto in Spring 2016, the band seemed very under rehearsed, and plagued with technical problems. There was no danger of that tonight. The band have always been a formidable live unit, and they seemed to have added a sheer joy in playing that sweeps the audience up, and turned their shows into something special.
On this tour, the band have added an extra element, perhaps influenced by Bruce Springsteen. Like The Boss, they have some songs they want to play, and apparently a structured opening to the show. in this case with a superb acapella ‘Long Way To Go’, before interspersing new songs with old for the first part of the show. ‘Get To You’ was possibly the funkiest thing ever heard at the Robin, with Brion James’ insistent riffing on ‘Forgot To Make Her Mine’ not far behind. Of the new songs, ‘Divided’ is becoming a bit of a favourite, and it was good to see James take the lead vocal on ‘Save the World’, with its reggae beat. After this though, like Springsteen, the band give the set list over to the crowd, picking whatever request took their fancy at the time.
Bassist Melvin Brennan liked the call for ‘The Brave’, so that’s what they played, followed by ‘Ritual’, in which Dan Reed handed the mic to the people in the front row for a line or two, then when someone called for ‘I’m So Sorry’, the band decided to rearrange to the same reggae beat as ‘Save The World’, and the musician in you could only admire how tight the band were and their ability to improvise considering they had no warning of what song they were deciding to play.
As a break from the requests, keyboard player Rob Daiker took the spotlight on one of the songs from his solo album, ‘Only For A Kiss’, playing guitar solo, before eventually being joined by the whole band for the big finish. There was definitely a touch of Tom Petty about this song, which is no bad thing. After this, the crowd asked for ‘Seven Sisters Road’, which gave Melvin Brannon the opportunity to play a bass solo, before an unexpected call for ‘The Heat’ had the band trying to work up a spontaneous version of a song they haven’t played for quite a few years. As improvisations go, ‘Baby Now I’ was far more successful, as the band veered off into ‘Relax’, Rush’s ‘Limelight’, ‘Purple Haze’, Earth, Wind and Fire’s ‘Let’s Groove Tonight’ (expertly sing by Melvin Brannon), ‘I Was Made For Loving You’ and ‘Enter Sandman’. It was brilliant stuff, and the crowd needed no urging to join in at every opportunity. The finale to the main set was two of the band’s most loved songs, firstly ‘Rainbow Child’, which always gets a huge response, and was dedicated to the family of a young man who took his own life at a tragically early age and whose family have started a charity in his honour(*), and finally ‘Stronger Than Steel’.
There was time for a single encore, an uproarious ‘Tiger in A Dress’ and an absolutely superlative show was over. The one thing that always strikes about a Dan reed Network show is not how much the audience appear to be enjoying themselves, but how much the band are too. The feedback they get from the crowd, the interaction on stage, it all combines to make these gigs just that little more special. Along with the Tyketto show at this venue in January, one of the best gigs of 2017 to date.
(*) The Ian’s Chain charity was set up in honour of Ian Savill, and is intended to fund support for young people suffering depression, so relevant at a time when suicide is the leading cause of early death in young men, It was started by his parents and tries to build something positive from their loss. To find out more, please go to www.ianschain.co.uk