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Robin 2, Bilston
Wednesday 9th March 2016

Ian Sutherland

ian sutherland

dan reed network

Back in their late eighties and early nineties heydays the Dan Reed Network were one of the hottest live acts around. Propelled on a heady mixture of a hugely relevant funk rock sound, a plethora of memorable songs and the coolest frontman around they were on the verge of cracking the big time.

A change of heart from Mr Reed himself at the time meant that stardom never happened and the band soon went their separate ways. Yet here they are having reconvened in 2014 as a one off, but inevitably finding that old chemistry and at the start of their second UK tour in two years with a new album in the works.

This is the first night of the tour and there are some initial technical issues which of course their unflappable frontman takes in his stride. It is obvious from the outset that this is a band who all enjoy being together and that relaxed vibe and issues with samples etc soon means that the set list is pretty much getting ignored.

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The level of musicianship is such that the improvising led by Reed and guitarist Brion James often has great results such as an extended version of 'Forgot To Make Her Mine' which is just a groovy funked up joy. The spontaneous burst of Earth, Wind And Fire is as enjoyable as it is unexpected but the sense of freedom the band are feeling soon starts to get out of control for me.

When the band decide to focus on one of their great old songs like 'Tiger In A Dress' it is really special and all that chemistry is simply irresistible. However when the onstage fun gets to repeating different endings to 'Make It Easy' to show the different ways they do it and throwing Metallica riffs into an already interrupted 'Baby Now I' for me the momentum is lost. It was telling that Reed admitted at one point that we were watching a rehearsal.

dan reed network

Things tighten up towards the end and the likes of 'Cruise Together' and 'Get To You' are huge and vital, driven along by those funky guitar riffs but the band hit the venue's curfew before they can go any further, disappointing a crowd who are at least expecting a run through old favourite 'Ritual'.

When they want to be DRN are still one of the best live bands around and they really do have the charisma and the musical chops to get away with a lot of fun and improvisation in a set. I'm sure many at this gig enjoyed it as it was but for me a slightly more focused set with more of those great tunes could have been a triumph. Some great stuff but a wasted opportunity in my opinion.

dan reed network

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