Dan Reed Network | 100 Club | 10 March 2017
(Photo credit: Eric Duvet)
How do you judge a gig’s success?
If it’s by how much the singer sweats, Dan Reed Network’s London performance is unparalleled. Within 10 minutes of announcing that they’ll be “starting slow”, Reed is drenched, having jumped, air drummed, pounced, and powerfully sung his way through supercharged renditions of ‘Get To You’ and ‘Divided’. And, even as the almost-two-hour show progresses, the energy levels rarely drop, with the frontman pinballing between four other musicians on an already narrow stage.
If it’s by the setlist, there’s no question here. Nestled between the staples (like a transcendent ’Rainbow Child’, punchy ‘Slam’, and swaggering ‘Ritual’) and new hits (a majestic, hard rocking ‘Champion’) are unexpected inclusions like the groovy ‘Cruise Together’, funkfest ‘Seven Sisters Road’, and anthemic ‘Stronger Than Steel’ (dedicated to the 77-year-old birthday boy who helped give them their break).
If it’s by the between-song banter, you’d need Trump-level superlatives. A throwaway comment about the US President leads to a running joke about executive orders that culminates in guitarist Brion James playing a spontaneous rendition of Steely Dan’s ‘Rikki Don’t Lose That Number’ while Reed chews on his own T-shirt. And teenage reminisces about listening to records with drummer Dan Pred breaks out into a Rush jam.
If it’s by the element of surprise on offer, this one’s got you covered. Like when Inglorious’ Nathan James lends his not inconsiderable vocal chops to a good-time take on KISS classic ‘Rock And Roll All Nite’. Or when a muscular ‘Baby Now I’ seamlessly breaks into a medley best described as eclectic: Frankie’s ‘Relax’, Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’, KISS’s ‘I Was Made For Lovin’ You’, and Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’.
If it’s by audience participation, you’d have to go a long way to find a show more truly inclusive. There’s no pulling fans up onto the stage to sing or play guitar embarrassingly, but Reed has no qualms about sharing his microphone with punters in the front row. There are smiles, waves, and high-fives for familiar faces. There’s a shout out to the man celebrating his 50th birthday. And song requests are actively encouraged.
If it’s by crowd response, these 40-somethings could perhaps rival the Beliebers in all disciplines except screaming. Arms are raised, drinks are spilled, lyrics are shouted, heads are rigorously nodded. Even when James takes lead vocals on the summery ‘Save The World’, buried deep on the new album, and Rob Daiker steps out from behind the keyboards to perform his solo song ‘All For A Kiss’, there’s an enthusiastic curiosity rather than the typical rush to the bar.
If it’s by the band’s performance, this 100 Club show is stellar. Even when he’s pulling the rockstar poses or reaching for the high notes he wrote 30 years ago, Reed’s voice never falters. James plays with a joy that’s infectious and a fluidity that’s impressive. Pred seems to be channelling Neil Peart – albeit on a smaller drumkit. Bassist Melvin Brannon Jr. calmly lays down the grooves, adds soulful backing vocals, and delivers sassy one-liners all while looking unbelievably cool. And relative newcomer Daiker now looks and sounds like he’s fully integrated into a group who’ve known each other for three decades. Even when things go wrong – like when a mysterious humming from the amps brings ‘Forgot To Make Her Mine’ to a grinding halt, and Daiker derails rarely played fan request ‘Seven Sisters Road’ – they good-naturedly pick up the pieces, effortlessly carrying on right where they left off.
So no matter how you judge a gig – unless it’s by the band’s ability to pronounce “Worcestershire” – DRN’s sold-out return to London is a bonafide success.