Review by Jack Davey
On a crisp clear October evening, The Academy 2 in Newcastle was the venue for the second night of the Dan Reed Network UK tour – their first visit to The Toon since 1990. As we approached the building, it looked like the staff were in for a busy night as Asking Alexandria were in the big room but what about up on the top floor? What would a 25 year absence mean for the size of the crowd for the Network and an evening of funk rock? Of course, a prompt sell out of the tickets for the originally planned venue, The Cluny, suggested a good turnout but, good grief, we weren’t expecting what happened!
First up were The King Lot from Scotland. I reckon their blend of classic rock coupled with some more modern twists (a la Alter Bridge, et al) would have gone down brilliantly with a less, ahem, experienced crowd but what would the group of Network/Electric Boys fans “of a certain age” make of them? Have no fear, these boys really set the scene for the evening’s entertainment. They were new to us but big things should be the prediction – tighter than a very tight thing following extra tightening from a spanner that had been set to ultra-tight. Riffs, melody and great songs held the crowd – surprisingly, the stated stage times seemed almost spot on (who knew?) so the reasonably good sized crowd could move and shake to their hearts’ content. Check them out at your earliest opportunity.
Then came the Electric Boys … and with them a swarm of music lovers of, what seemed like, biblical proportions emerged from the stairwell. The temperature soared with Conny Bloom’s band of merry men bringing their blend of funked up rock and roll to a room rapidly turning into an over-packed sardine tin. Hints of Hendrix were apparent in the guitar work in some songs (at least to these ears) and the groove was well and truly to the fore. Crowd sing-a-longs and interaction certainly raised the expectations of the crowd for the main event … and if the Electric Boys were here to warm-up the crowd, looking around the room at the heaving mass of sweaty bodies you would have to say, “job done … and then some!”.
Those who know the story of the Network will remember the tales of touring the planet, hit singles and albums (“Slam” touched by the hand of Niles Rodgers) and then? Off came Dan’s hair and the early 1990s saw the end of the Network and was followed by Dan taking an extended break from music. In 2009, after travelling the world to embrace the more spiritual side of life (including living in Jerusalem) and a spark re-ignited his desire to perform again. Taking the stage with just his guitar for company, long standing Network fans reconnected with him and saw him performing around Europe and the US pretty much every week! But when asked about a reformation, the response was usually that it was unlikely as all the band had moved on in their lives. And then … all of a sudden, the Network were back. A handful of festival shows proved that there was still a demand for the classy blend of multi-genre music and, here we all were in Newcastle to witness the second night of the tour. Unfortunately, because of family situations that needed to be dealt with, keyboard player, Blake Sakamoto felt unable to commit and so left the band with two weeks to go and so, long time Reed collaborator, Rob Daiker stepped up to bat and, on last night’s performance more than ably played his part.
The set comprised of many long time fan favourites (including Ritual, Baby Now I and, of course, Rainbow Child) and what the sold out Academy crowd witnessed were five guys having a great time. Happiness and enjoyment are infectious and when the band are “on it” like last night, then it follows that the crowd will do the same. Singing along, joining in the silent screams and enjoying the slight technical hitch – I suspect that Brion James’ guitar was suffering with the heat the same as we were. Dan held the crowd from the first note and moved like a 26 year old – how does that happen? Brion James is probably the most under-rated guitar player I have had the pleasure of seeing, Dan Pred can batter that drum kit and Melvin? Cool personified! We had received reports that the Manchester show the night before had a new song included in the set. It appeared that we were in for a treat when a new song was announced and? What’s that? Rainbow Child? Not sure what happened but I am really looking forward to hearing the new song in future as reports were that Brion’s guitar was absolutely smoking on it. Ah well, something to look forward to next time and the comments suggest that the planned Network album for 2016 (they enter the studio in November) will be something special.
A sold out show after a 25 year absence, a crowd beaming from ear to ear following three great sets – and still plenty of dates where you can catch them this tour (and at HRH AOR in March 2016) get your tickets whilst you can.
I’m not sure that bands like Bring Me the Hair Straighteners and the like will be able to do that in 2040.