Over the last seven years, I have seen one man perform live more than any other. In fact, I often joke, with Dan that I see him more than my family – he always says “surely not” but, in all honesty, my comment has more than a hint of truth about it.
Hot on the heels of the release of his latest album, “Confessions”, Dan Reed ventured out with his guitar (and a new gizmo, of which more later) on a series of intimate dates to bring a sense of the album and his solo works that made for a most uplifting a soul renewing set of shows. Some were in churches, others in more intimate club environs – The Cluny 2 being one of those.
Before the show, Dan very kindly spared some time to talk with ROck-Zone UK about the new record, his ways of working, song writing styles for solo and Network songs … and we also touched on somethings a little darker. Some of you will know that, for a time, Dan removed himself from the sometimes crazy world of music, some of you will have seen the interview in Classic Rock where Dan opened up about some of the reasons behind this – I wanted to discuss this a little in respect of my own struggles with depression. The interview is in the two links below
From the interview came the show itself. There is always something other worldly about a Dan Reed solo show. Stripped of a band and the fabulous funky nature of the Network, well-known songs take on a whole new meaning – “Rainbow Child” and “Stronger than Steel”, for so long staples of Network shows, display a beauty that shouldn’t surprise but still does, every time I hear them. The effect is not just on me – the audience at Dan’s solo shows are imbued with a sense of this beauty and soulfulness. At times you may think you were at an almost religious gathering – yet the tales and jokes belie this. Tales of how, during his time in Nepal, Dan taught the monks about sex, drugs and rock n roll were a joy to hear – sheer joy with no hint of the ironic sneering that too many non rock fans would assume would form the nature of the tales.
What made th show even more special for me was the inclusion of various cover versions in the set – Dan’s acoustic version of Dio’s “Holy Diver” is one I always enjoy and was delighted to hear included. However, that was not the only gem within the set. As Dan alludes to in the interview, he has taken the time to revisit and learn some of the songs that have been with him through his musical journey so far. An Elvis song (with the story of a young Dan, singing The King’s songs in school) and a breathtaking version of John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero”.
We also, of course, had songs from the new album – a collection of songs that display a beauty and depth that, for my mind, results in the finest of Dan’s solo records yet. Making use of loops and other bits of techy wizardry, “Confessions” is a record that is both new and vibrant whilst still providing existing fans with something they will know and love from the first notes. First single “Smile” was in tonight’s set and later in the evening Dan made use of his tablet to perform one track with some of the sounds that make the new record so special. To these old ears that was something quite special – the acoustic ambiance continued and the audience clearly had none of the oft held opinion that backing tracks are cheating. They certainly are not when you use them like this.
Confessions was recorded primarily in Prague at Reed’s ‘Zero One’ Recording studio, and some over dubbing and extra production work was tracked in his home town of Portland, Oregon at ‘The Commune’ studio with Artist and Producer Rob Daiker co-producing and mixing. The first single Smile is about tuning out the noise of the day, the chaos, and finding solace in the simple smile of someone we share this road called life with. However, don’t be fooled by the title and theme. There’s no sugar-coated, ‘silly love songs’ on Confessions.
One major point for me, having seen Dan so regularly over the last few years, was the tone and quality of his voice. Always great (I’ve never noticed a sub-par performance), tonight was truly something else. This was the first set of shows that Dan had used in-ear monitors and the ability this gave him to use the full depth and range of his voice took the show to a whole new level for me. There were textures to Dan’s voice that I had never heard and these allowed him to produce a show that was pure genius.
The results will soon be available for all to see and hear, as the first shows of this run are to be released on a live DVD in the coming weeks. Make sure you get it, so you too can enjoy the slice of heaven we experienced in Newcastle.
Thank you to Peter and the team at Noble PR for arranging the interview and to the sterling work of Dario Nikzad for making it all happen.
“Confessions” is available now:
Label – Zero One Entertainment
Distributed by – Townsend Records
Album Artwork by – Graeme Bell at ‘Planet Twig’
Mastered by Henrik Alser at ‘Ultimate Sound’
Photocredit – image of Dan Reed taken by The Margo