FM / Dan Reed Network / Gun (The Big 3-0 Tour Manchester)

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FM / Dan Reed Network / Gun - O2 Academy 2, Manchester (UK) - 20 December 2019

"The Big 3-0 Tour" saw three of the eighties finest Rock bands join forces to play their seminal 1989-released albums in their entirety. All three were bands that perfectly fit the category "should've been massive" but for various reasons it never happened. However, for those fans that remained loyal over the years, it meant we got to see our heroes up close and personal and not just merely as dots on an arena stage. The combination of the three groups certainly brought the fans out in force, many whom had seen them perform live in the halcyon days of the late eighties; although, it was nice to see a fair few younger fans who were either very young (or not even born in some cases) when the bands played thirty years ago! The sound throughout was excellent, as was the atmosphere in the Academy 2, although it was a long night for us that stood up for over three and half hours to watch all three bands. The latter would explain the continual movement in an out of the venue, particularly for those under six feet tall, who mostly had limited vision throughout.

The bands had been taking it in turns opening and headlining throughout the tour and such was the camaraderie between the groups and lack of egos, there was no issue on going on first. Indeed, Dan Reed, who opened this evening's proceedings with his Network, alluded to the fact that starting early gave them the opportunity to get a proper meal whilst the other bands performed. Their sophomore album 'Slam' was the longest of the three albums being played in full, and as such afforded them no time to add additional songs to their set. Now, the likes of 'Under My Skin', 'Tiger In A Dress' and 'Rainbow Child' are stalwarts from their normal set, and it was great to hear the lesser played tracks, particularly 'Come Back Baby', 'Seven Sisters Road' and my personal highlight 'Stronger Than Steel', but as good as they were (and they were excellent), the set did lack the likes of 'Ritual', 'Champion' and 'Baby Now I'. Dan Reed Network boasts four original members, Reed (vocals), Brion James (guitar), Melvin Brannon II (bass) and Dan Pred (drums), with only Rob Daiker (keyboards) not being around in the eighties. The latter may have been the reason that Daiker looked somewhat subdued this evening, in complete contrast to Reed, James and Brannon, who were obviously having a blast.

Whereas Dan Reed Network and FM released their sophomore albums in 1989, Glasgow-based Gun released their tremendous debut opus 'Taking On The World'. As this was the shortest of the three albums, it allowed Gun to intersperse other choice tracks; they also did not play the aforementioned 'Taking On The World' in its original running order (and even dispensed with 'Girls In Love'). This was a masterstroke and arguably gave them the best set of the evening. Some say Gun have never quite been the same since the departure of vocalist Mark Rankin; however, Dante Gizzi has stepped up to the mic and proved himself as a more than a suitable replacement. Together with brother Jools Gizzi (guitar), Tommy Gentry (guitar), Andy Carr (bass) and Paul McManus (drums) they looked the more serious of the three bands whilst performing;

I think that was more concentration than not enjoying themselves. The cover of Cameo's 'Word Up!' seemed to notch up the energy levels further and warped us even further back into the eighties (even though they released their version in 1994). 'Taking On The World' was sublime, and 'I Will Be Waiting' maintained the momentum, but the knock-out punches arrived with the one-two of 'Inside Out' and 'Steal Your Fire' (from 1992's 'Gallus' opus). A cover of The Beastie Boys 'Fight Tor Your Right (To Party!)' amplified the party spirit that had been in place since the moment Dan Reed Network took to the stage. It was twenty-seven years ago since I last saw the Glaswegians perform live (supporting Def Leppard 'In The Round' at Earl's Court); I won't be leaving it that long again.

Setlist: Better Days / The Feeling Within / Something to Believe In / Can't Get Any Lower / Word Up! / Taking On The World / I Will Be Waiting / Money (Everybody Loves Her) / Inside Out / Steal Your Fire / Shame On You / (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)

This was my third time seeing FM this year and in so doing, they overtook Def Leppard as the band that I have seen the most live. I take every opportunity to see these AOR legends live as it's always such great enjoyment. This evening (and tour) I think they did miss a trick, and not take a leaf out of Tyketto's book from a few years ago, when they played their debut 'Don't Come Easy' in reverse order. 'Tough It Out' is chock full of great songs, but there's no doubting the heavyweight numbers, which appear in most of their live shows, are at the front end of the album (side one for those who can remember vinyl and cassettes). Therefore, it was no surprise that FM hit the ground running with 'Tough It Out' 'Don't Stop', 'Bad Luck' and 'Someday (You'll Come Running)'. After the last track from 'Tough It Out', 'Feels So Good', Steve "The Voice" Overland proved why he is still one of the greatest live singers with the usual phenomenal rendition of 'Story Of My Life'. That just left time for 'Killed By Love' and the final song of the evening, the classic 'Other Side Of Midnight' saw not one, but two keytars (it doesn't get any more eighties than that folks) with original keyboard player Didge Digital joining his former band mates on stage.

Setlist: Tough It Out / Don't Stop / Bad Luck / Someday (You'll Come Running) / Everytime I Think of You / Burning My Heart Down / The Dream That Died / Obsession / Can You Hear Me Calling? / Does It Feel Like Love / Feels So Good / Story Of My Life / Killed By Love / Other Side Of Midnight

Within five minutes of FM leaving the stage, most of the members of all three bands were in the lobby mingling with the fans, happy to chat and take photographs. This was my final gig of the year and what a way to finish. A hugely successful format. I don't think anyone would be disappointed if they came back for the 'The Big 3-1'.

Mark Donnelly

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