At The O2 Academy, Newcastle, U.K., December 17, 2019

DAN REED NETWORK (Live at The O2 Academy, Newcastle, U.K., December 17, 2019)
Photo: Mick Burgess

Many bands have toured in celebration of a classic album, playing the record in full. Some bands have toured celebrating two such albums and in the case of Prog titans, YES, they performed three albums in their entirety.

What hasn’t been done before is a tour by three bands, each playing a classic album from one particular year so tonight was something of a first as Dan Reed Network, FM and Gun joined forces for The Big 3-0 tour to celebrate the release of Slam by DRN, Tough It Out by FM and Taking On The World, all pivotal albums for each band and all released in 1989.

Glaswegian Rockers, Gun, were first up with their no nonsense take on commercial Hard Rock with “Better Days” and “The Feeling Within” starting off in energetic style as former bassist turned singer Dante Gizzi worked the crowd like a pro.

Rather than play the album straight through, Gun mixed it up somewhat with “Something To Believe In” following next. It was a smart move as sometimes what works on album doesn’t translate to the pacing of a live show.

With “Shame On You” and “Money (Everybody Loves Her)” slotting in well a couple of surprises were thrown into the mix with “Steal Your Fire” from the follow up Gallus and their huge hit of Cameo’s Funk classic, “Word’s Up” added nicely to the songs from Taking On The World.

As “Shame On You” ran into a thumping take on “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)” the party had well and truly started.

There’s an old English phrase about taking coals to Newcastle, which means taking something to a place where that item already exists in abundance. That phrase was once levelled at FM as they sought to take their brand of AOR to The States where AOR ruled supreme for a while.

To be fair, they had the songs, the musicianship and in Steve Overland, a golden throated vocalist who could match the best that America had to offer. They even hooked up with the hitmaker himself, Desmond Child to pen a couple of songs on their second album, Tough It Out.

Tough It Out certainly marked a step up for FM in terms of song writing and with a much weightier production, they challenged at the top table.

“Tough It Out”, the song and “Bad Luck” two magnificent slabs of Melodic Rock, set the tone while the slick AOR of “(Someday) You’ll Come Running” oozed with class as Overland’s voice simply soared.

“Burning My Heart Down”, returned a harder edge to the set while the song that started it all “That Girl” from their debut Indiscreet and “Killed By Love” from 2018’s Atomic Generation closed the show with something old and something new.

Dan Reed Network’s self-titled debut saw a star in its ascendency. A glorious blend a Funk and Rock, one-part Prince and one-part Bon Jovi along with a unique multi-cultural line-up and a frontman bestowed with Rock Star credentials, meant that success was surely a hair breadth away. Alas the music business is a fickle mistress and superstardom didn’t quite happen but their three-album run 30 years ago was one hell of a ride.

Of the three albums originally released back then, it was Slam that hit the mark. With a tougher, more guitar orientated production courtesy of Chic main man Nile Rodgers, Slam saw DRN heading for the stars and tonight it was time for it to be played in full, in almost its original running order with a wonderful acappella version of “All My Lovin” with just Reed bathed in a haze of green tinged smoke, to start the ball rolling.

From then on it was welcome to Funk Rock City as “Make It Easy”, Slam” and “Tiger In A Dress” grooved deep and grooved hard. Dan Reed, never still for a moment, had the crowd eating out of his hands.

Rainbow Child, the best song Prince never wrote, was one of the night’s big highlights and “Stronger Than Steel” dedicated to all of the couples in the crowd, mellowed the mood before the bass of Melvin Brannon II locked in and Brion James’s guitar cranked up the funk for Under My Skin which segued beautifully into the festive “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire” as Reed wished everyone a Merry Christmas.

The darker groove of “Cruise Together” contrasted starkly with the more sparkly, up-tempo Funk of “Under My Skin” and Dan Pred’s tight rhythm heralded “Seven Sister’s Road” bringing it all to a high energy, Funky close.

Three bands, three albums, what a night. It’s as if the last 30 years had never happened as Newcastle partied like it was 1989.

Review and Photos By Mick Burgess


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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