Of all the shows that I have attended this year, tonight was the one I probably looked forward to the most. The Dan Reed Network AND Extreme? Together? For a guitar obsessed bloke, Nuno Bettencourt has been on my list of favourites for a long time (crikey, I still have the “Francis” sticker from a 12″ single on one of my guitar cases) but I have to admit that I’d never caught them live. So a man giddier than Mr Giddy from Giddyland couldn’t wait for tonight’s show. Unfortunately, as the door staff at the Academy seemed to be working in a different time zone from the rest of Newcastle, Mr Giddy had to wait …. in the queue …. in the Baltic conditions. However, once in the building there was not long to wait before the heat rose dramatically.
Opening with “Resurrect”, The Dan Reed Network really hit the crowd with everything in their arsenal and kept the crowd in the palms of their hands from note one to the closing acapella of “A Long Way to Go”. The early start didn’t hinder the crowd – I love it when people bother to catch all of the acts on a bill, and tonight was no exception. Clearly, football traffic had a small effect on some of the later arrivals but the word in the crowd was all about how great The Network were tonight. Featuring track from the back catalogue and from the latest “Fight Another Day”, the Portland boys demonstrated why they were so lauded back in the day … and why the reunion was both timely and justified. Clearly happy to be doing what they did and do best, the Network blend of funk, rock and melody was as big a crowd pleaser tonight as it ever was. “Rainbow Child” always weaves it’s magic on me and it is always a thrill for me hearing Brion James’ guitar fills and solos that were once a small part of the set my university rock band played. With a set that was around 50 minutes long, it wasn’t just me that felt the time go in a blink of an eye. What struck me most was that the newer material sits so well with the classics.
Without doubt, this had the feel of a double headline show – both for me and, more importantly, the crowd. They clearly Slam-dunked it tonight.
A quick stage rejig and Extreme hit the stage. What a blistering set – career spanning and impactful from start to finish. Sure, tracks from “Pornograffitti” made up a large portion of the set but Extreme are much more than that album (and “that” song – saved for the encore). “Decadence Dance” still grabs me from the first riff but so do so many others. “I’d almost (but not quite) forgotten how special the likes of “Kid Ego” were but tonight soon battered me around the head to remind me of just how great a band Extreme are. Funk rock for sure, but there is also an almost proggy element to the music they have created over the years. Come on, rock, funk, bluegrass, concept albums, two handed tapping, acoustic songs … surely that is a living breathing definition of progressive? Especially given their formation in the decade of Hair Metal! Throw into the mix a duet between Nuno and drummer Kevin (yes, Nuno playing drums), an acoustic spot in the middle of the show and the whirling dervish that is Gary Cherrone – something for everybody was on display tonight.
Again all too soon the main set was done. Encore time (of course) saw “more Than Words” up first – such a succesful song for the band they would be mad to leave it out of the set. Then a bit of a curveball with “Peacemaker Die” which for me was perhaps not the most obvious encore number, but apparently introduced when playing at the Bataclan in Paris earlier in the week. However as a massive fan of the band, it’s always a treat to hear something never played on tour before. Finally, the band’s long-term admiration of Queen was on show for all to see. I will never forget the band stealing the show at the Freddie Mercury Tribute concert and we were sent on our way with “We Are the Champions”.
You know what? Based on tonight both Dan Reed Network and Extreme are certainly that. Champions
Only a fairly short tour but still dates to go to … so do it