Words and Pictures: Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media
You wait 30 years for a classic album to be played in full and then 3 turn up at once. I’m sure I’ve heard that somewhere before but I digress… this gig, for me, was a big deal. It’s not called The Big 3-0 for nothing. In 1989 (and then into the early 90s) the three bands I saw playing live more than any other were Dan Reed Network, FM and Gun. I still own the ’89 Tough It Out tour shirt from the local FM gig in Birmingham when they played at the Irish Centre with Saraya in support. I remember seeing Gun at various venues in London as I moved to University that year including the old Town & Country Club, now more commonly known as the Forum in Kentish Town. Dan Reed Network had hooked me in with their stunning debut a couple of years earlier and whilst I didn’t see them before ’89 I wore their t-shirt with pride all the time in London. This resulted in a youthful Dan, running down Charing Cross Road one night shouting “hey you” to me at the top of his voice. Ever wary in the Big Smoke, I turned to discover the lead singer of the band whose shirt I was wearing simply stick out his hand, shake mine, say “Nice shirt man..” and then run off to join the band at the top of the road as they headed in to a club to sample the nightlife.
With FM, the second band I ever saw live, I’ve grown up with their albums and loved [almost] every one. When they announced a one off reunion show at Firefest in Nottingham, I was front and centre when the first note was played at Rock City. I saw the band countless times before they split and I’ve seen them countless times since and the band never [ever] put on a bad performance. There may have been the odd moment described by wags in the audience as “average” when Steve Overland wowed us with his vocal work outs but in reality, they, as do the other two bands, command a very loyal and loving audience.
The Big 3-0 tour, showcasing each of the albums mentioned allows each band to take turns to close the show and in London, rocker GUN go first, then FM with Dan Reed Network to close.
There’s no doubting that celebrating ‘Taking On The World’ is a worthy exercise. It’s the album that got me into GUN, I own all the singles and the album on vinyl and it still comes out when I need a classic rock pick-me-up.
With just brither Giuliano ‘Jools’ Gizzi and Dante Gizzi remaining from the early days of GUN, it’s wonderful to see how they have managed to reinvigorate the Scottish outfit’s career with ‘Break The Silence’, ‘Frantic’ and ‘Favourite Pleasures’, three outstanding albums that really highlight the duo’s knack of writing a catchy pop rock killer tune.
Of course the bulk of the set is dedicated to ‘Taking On The World’ and the tracks including the heartfelt title track generate a sing back from the faithful in the crowd. The hits from the band’s career also get a look in, including a storming cover of Cameo’s ‘Word Up’, a song the band made their own when former singer Mark Rankin was still in the band. These days, Dante fills the centre spot and looks every inch at home as the band’s frontman. They also reel out classic ‘Steel Your Fire’, the video for which is below. Now, if they could do a celebration of ‘Gallus’, the album on which this track can be found, I’d be first in the queue.
‘Tough It Out’, an album that made me attend every FM gig I could for many years, dragging every (and I mean every single one) girlfriend at the time to the gigs with me in the hope that I would be able to convert them to the AOR-magic that FM dish out like candy.
30 years on and the music from the album feels as fresh as it did back in ’89 when I remember Radio 1 playing ‘Bad Luck’ on Newsbeat declaring the band to be the next UK band to make it big in the US. Of course the winds of success did not blow in FM’s favour as far as their career was concerned and what should have seen them become as big as Journey never happened.
Fast forward 30 years and a reinvigorated FM now command a bigger fan base than they did back then, they’re playing bigger venues and even the BBC have gotten back on board with Radio 2 frequently play-listing the band.
They are about the tightest a band can get musically. The set they perform is energised, full of warmth and affection for not only each other but the crowd as well and Steve Overland’s voice….. let’s just say ‘average’ is the biggest insult you could ever throw at the man who sounds better now than he ever has.
As my mind goes back to interviews with Steve and “why don’t you ever play ‘Someday [You’ll Come Running]’, it’s one of my favourites from ‘Tough It Out'” the answer always seemed to be ‘maybe’. Well, when you’re doing the album in full, it’s a dead cert we’re going to get it and it sounded immense. My grin as wide as The Forth Bridge, every song a sing along classic and performed by a band still at the top of their game, the fans responding at the top of their voices, the hour flew by and before we knew it, the album was done and dusted [with just a little internal debate as to which songs were in, which order they should be played, with Steve smiling in a ‘some things never change’ type of way]. A new track and an old classic closed the show and for the old one, they picked by far and away my favourite from the debut, sadly much to the disgust of the fan next to me who kept shouting for ‘Frozen Heart’.
65 minutes of music and a real rocker at the end in ‘I Belong To The Night’ closed the set in style with just Dan Red Network still to come.
DAN REED NETWORK
Like FM, Dan Reed Network pulled the plug in the mid 1990s. Dan went on to own a nightclub in his home city of Portland, before heading off to live in a monastery and managing to rediscover his musical soul.
Bringing the band back together some 20 years after splitting at Enchanted Festival in Kent, a reformed Dan Reed Network reminded people just why we had loved the three albums the band had released between 87 and 92. Album 2, ‘Slam’ is rightly deemed to be a classic and presents a smooth funk rock blend of music from a diverse bunch of musicians who each bring something wholly unique to the mix.
Dan may [once more] be completely shaven headed these days but unlike Samson, his powers do not depend on a head full of hair. He moves around the stage with the boundless energy of a man 30 years younger. The same can be said of both Brion James and Melvin Brannon Jnr and the trio work the front of the stage with a level of seasoned professionalism that just shows what friends who have worked together for decades can really do. The only downside….. you focus so much on the trio, it’s easy to forget poor old Dan Pred and Rob Daiker on drums and keys who don’t have the luxury of movement around the stage. Rob of course could go full Jem Davies [FM’s keyboard player] and borrow the keytar [and leather trousers] to go out and wander to the front but that’s maybe for another tour!
Now of course Dan likes a chat, a smile, a story and a segue into the next track. However… with 11pm rapidly approaching, we did lose fan favourite ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On’, a track the band made their own when they toured ‘Slam’ first time around. It is however the only niggle on what was an immense performance and a fantastic night.
All too suddenly, it was over and we were once more back in the cold of Shepherds Bush, heading back home. Tired, buzzing and definitely happy to have experienced such a wonderful show.
If the bands can return and celebrate, ‘Gallus’, ‘Aphrodisiac’ and ‘The Heat’ next time around, I’ll be first in the queue.