Dare, Blackballed

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I've seen Dare on numerous occasions since their debut tour in 1988, and this was their best performance to date

Holmfirth: Picturedrome – 04 December 2021

Opening the proceedings this evening were Manchester band Blackballed, last-minute replacements for Troy Redfern, who opted for the obviously more lucrative support slot on the current Sweet tour. Although I personally don't like it when this happens, I can fully appreciate it from a purely business perspective. Anyway, Blackballed, the band formed by ex-New Model Army guitarist Marshall Gill, seized the opportunity and delivered an entertaining set of their own brand of high energy, Blues-infused Rock 'n' Roll. This was my first time seeing the three-piece group, who also feature Alex Whitehead on drums and Tom "Abraham Lincoln" Wibberley on bass (who it wouldn't have surprised me to discover he was the ten-year old kid on guitar in Jack Black's 'School Of Rock' – sic). Testament to the trio, they held the audience's attention throughout (I saw very few people heading out to the bar during their seven-song set) and won themselves quite a few more fans along the way. Personal highlights were 'When The Devil Calls', '55 Groove' and set-closer 'Shoes'.

I was pleasantly surprised that there were even more in attendance (approximately five hundred plus) than the FM show the previous week. The latter was probably due to the fact that FM's show was part of a full UK tour as opposed to this one-off show. That said, it was only three weeks since I last saw Dare at the HRH-ABC Festival in Great Yarmouth. They always bring a bit of class to any festival (the calm before the storm, you might say), but have been criticised in the past for playing the exact same set every time. Tonight, I got to see them headline for the first time since the 1991 'Blood From Stone' tour at The Marquee Club in London.

They opened with five songs from their last studio album 'Sacred Ground' (unbelievably now five years old), and it was obvious from the get-go this was going to be a special evening. The sound and lighting (the latter courtesy of Lee Foster) were both fantastic. The five musicians were really enjoying themselves and, as with every band playing the Picturedrome for the first time, really impressed with the venue. Darren Wharton mentioned 'Last Of The Summer Wine' and enquired how many of the audience were from Holmfirth? Amusingly, there was a deathly silence until a couple quietly voiced recognition.

Darren gave a shout out to the late, great Terry Wogan for playing 'Sea Of Roses' on Radio Two, joking that he sent him a bottle of Irish Whiskey. The band appeared very relaxed and obviously revelling in their headline status, Wharton joking that they even got to do a proper sound check!

On a night where the BBC were airing a documentary on another late great Irish man, Phil Lynott, 'Emerald' was a fitting (first) tribute to the sadly missed Thin Lizzy main man. 'Beneath The Shining Water' was a welcome surprise addition to the set and a personal favourite.

For several years, Dare sadly neglected their sophomore release 'Blood From Stone' and their sojourn into the Melodic Hard Rock genre, but thankfully 'Wings Of Fire' and 'We Don't Need A Reason' are now a staple part of any Dare set. They give both the band and fans equal opportunity to rock out.

Bassist Nigel "The Vaping Monster" Clutterbuck and drummer, Hairy Biker lookalike Kev Whitehead (has anyone ever seen Kev and Dave Myers in the same room? Just asking) kept perfect rhythm throughout, whilst lurking in the shadows, Marc Roberts provided the trademark keyboard sound. The dynamic Vinny Burns (replete with his curls) was on top form this evening, and the inimitable Darren Wharton could not stop smiling; remarkably his voice held out for the whole hour and forty minutes, a good forty minutes more than their standard set length.

Another shout out to a Radio Two DJ, Steve Wright, for playing what was the introduction for most of us to this phenomenal band, 'Abandon'; the collective took the proverbial roof off, the momentum continuing with the awesome 'Into The Fire'.

"Does it rain in Holmfirth?" was the rhetorical tongue-in-cheek question posed by Wharton preceding 'The Raindance'. Listening to this on the seminal 'Out Of The Silence' opus, you might think it's not the greatest song to play live; however, those that have seen the band, originating from the next valley Oldham, know that is not the case.

The band briefly left the stage, returning for a three-song encore. Darren dedicated 'Silent Hills' for all who have had to stay goodbye to loved ones. Second dedication of the evening to Phil Lynott came with ubiquitous 'King Of Spades'. That just left 'Return The Heart', dedicated to all the fans including a very nice shout out to the Norwegian and Spanish contingent of the Dare Fan Club, who sadly could not make this evening's show due to travel restrictions. Hopefully next year.

I've seen Dare on numerous occasions since their debut tour in 1988, and this was their best performance to date; an opinion shared by many on Facebook. Every December (last year notwithstanding) I manage to go to a special pre-Christmas show; this was up there with the very best of them.

Mark Donnelly

Blackballed Setlist:- Olde England / Gold Digger / Coat Of Many Colours / Fireflight / When The Devil Calls / 55 Groove / Shoes

Dare Setlist:- Home / Until / I'll Hear You Pray / Days Of Summer / Every Time You Say Goodbye / Sea Of Roses / Where Darkness Ends / Silent Thunder / Emerald /Beneath The Shining Water / Wings Of Fire / We Don't Need A Reason / Abandon / Into The Fire / The Raindance

Encore: Silent Hills / King Of Spades / Return The Heart

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