Concert Reviews

Dan Reed Network / Mason Hill / Hollowstar Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     November 18, 2018    
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Dan Reed Network / Mason Hill / Hollowstar - The Robin 2, Bilston (UK) - 07 November 2018

The opening acts for this tour had been hand-picked by Dan Reed himself in an attempt to give them a step-up an expose them to a larger audience, and respect to Reed himself for coming out to introduce each act. I actually missed almost all of Hollowstar's set due to a Black Country traffic jam, and also that the doors opened earlier than the 7:30 as advertised. The one song I did see was decent enough, but not enough to warrant a real opinion.

Tonight was the first time I had seen or heard Mason Hill, and fair play to singer Scott Taylor for having the balls to appear on stage solo to sing over a taped intro before the rest of the band appeared. Their sound is a good combination of Contemporary/Alternative and Melodic Rock, and they have the songs to match with the likes of 'Where I Belong' and the new single 'Against The Wall', while the closing cover of Audioslave's 'Cochise' was gargantuan. The downside of the performance for me was the antics of the bassist; the guy can clearly play well, but his constant gurning and "look at me I'm brilliant" posing quickly became tiresome and off-putting, so I turned my attention completely away and focused on talented lead guitarist James Bird, but in complete contrast he just appeared vaguely disinterested for the most part. Musically brilliant, but I would hesitate to see them live again unless they changed their stage demeanour.

For an ultra-professional unit like Dan Reed Network, it's amazing to see that they don't actually take themselves too seriously; indeed, attending this gig actually appeared more like an audience being present at a relaxed rehearsal rather than a full-on Rock show, with instances like Reed stopping one of Brion James' guitar solos as it sounded off-key with the comment "we've been doing this too long to sound this shitty!", and handing drummer Dan Pred his microphone to sing, only for the sticksman to impress all with his rendition of the old Blues tune 'Ice Cream Man'. The five members clearly have a strong bond together with their self-deprecating humour and revealing anecdotes about the history of how the band came together. Reed, James and bassist Melvin Brannon II bound about the stage like men half their age - you got the feeling that if Dan Pred could pick up his drumkit as easily he'd be joining them!

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Though the majority of the audience were there to hear the old Funk Rock classics, I maintain that I think the more contemporary approach to their newer material is far superior, so I was pleased that no less than three cuts from comeback album 'Fight Another Day' were included (namely 'Divided', 'Champion' and Brion's Reggae-influenced 'Save The World'), and I think the four new songs on latest album 'Origins' are the best thing they've ever done. With the album yet to be released, only 'One Last Time' was aired – I was disappointed at the time that first single 'Fade To Light' was absent, but it later transpired that the amp for keyboardist Rob Daiker's required second guitar blew up in rehearsal, so the song was dropped.

As for the "classics", that department was well catered for, from opener 'Rock You All Night Long' through the likes of 'Forgot To Make Her Mine', 'Under My Skin', 'Baby Now I' (which included a somewhat eclectic medley of songs that mixed Metallica, Earth Wind & Fire and Frankie Goes To Hollywood!), the sublime 'Rainbow Child' and the rather less-so 'Tiger In A Dress', a stunning 'Stronger Than Steel' and absolutely stonking 'Ritual' to close the show. No frills, no returning to the stage for an encore, save for Dan calling Brion back for a seemingly impromptu a cappella version of 'All My Lovin'' that is simply beautiful.

Dan Reed revealed that they will be back in 2019 with a tour to celebrate the thirty-year anniversary of the 'Slam' album, with a brand new record slated for 2020 "that will be the biggest and best statement we can make" – along with his solo work and collaboration with Danny Vaughn on the Snake Oil And Harmony project, the next few years could be his busiest yet.

Ant Heeks

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