Dan Reed Network + Extreme

Wednesday 20th December

Brixton Academy, London

On Wednesday I paid yet another visit to Brixton Academy, this time to see the final show in the UK tour by Extreme and the Dan Reed Network. The two bands are perfect bedfellows; both are American bands formed in the mid-1980’s; both were at the forefront of the Funk Rock revolution in the early 1990’s and both sold several million albums, but were best known for their explosive live performances. After their early success peaked, both bands broke up in the late 1990’s, but they later reformed, not just, as is so often the case, for a single money-spinning tour, but for the long-term, with numerous tours over several years, bolstered by new material. Could the reformed bands revive the enthusiasm and excitement of their famed eclectic and innovative performances of the past? And which band has weathered the last 30 years better? There was only one way to find out!



We arrived in Brixton unusually early, nearly an hour before the Dan Reed Network was due on stage, but there was already a massive queue stretching around the corner and snaking along the full length of the O2 Academy. The Network was billed as the support band, but these fans obviously knew they were no ordinary support band and didn’t want to miss a minute of their opening set. Fortunately for us, our WRC tickets required entry via the Stage Door, giving us immediate entry and plenty of time for a couple of warm up drinks before the action started. Better still, the choice of drinks was not restricted to fizzy lager and cider: bottles of Hobgoblin were readily available, not quite as good as draught Hobgoblin maybe (you have to go to the Wychwood Music Festival, sponsored by Hobgoblin’s brewery for that) but a distinct improvement on the beers offered at most live music venues!



Despite its 33 year existence, and reformation, the current Dan Reed Network line-up features four of the original five band members: Brion James (lead guitar and support vocals), Melvin Brannan (bass) and Dan Pred (drums) as well as figurehead Dan Reed. The only newcomer is Rob Daiker (keyboard). As they entered the stage, and launched into opener ‘Cruise Together’, it was soon obvious how much they all enjoy being there, none more so than Dan Reed himself. Despite his time in a Buddhist monastery and his solo, acoustic tours, he remains a natural Rock star, exemplified by his tormented vocals, continual bounding across the stage, Trump bashing interludes, dad-dancing movements and seemingly perpetual motion. Ably supported by the rest of the band, notably guitarist Brion James, dreadlocks flailing as he nails every solo, Dan captivated the audience with a succession of Network classics, including ‘Baby Now I’ and the slightly slower ‘Rainbow Child’. These were followed by ‘Champion’, the only song in this evening’s set from the Network’s latest album ‘Fight Another Day’, which is built around a slow, steady riff and Melvin Brannon’s rattling bass. It was then back to the classics, the set finishing with ‘Ritual’ and ‘Get to You’, a couple of full-on, dynamic Funk-Metal monsters. After 33 years on stage, you’d think Dan would be ready to start taking it easy; quite the opposite: despite touring the UK three times in 2017 (twice with the Network, once solo) he assured the adoring fans in Brixton that he’d be back for another tour early in 2018.



After missing Extreme, tonight’s headliners, at this year’s Ramblin’ Man Fair, I was grateful for the opportunity to see them live at Brixton. Despite several comings and goings over the years, the current Extreme line-up features three of the four original members: vocalist Gary Cherone (who also fronted Van Halen 1998-9), lead guitarist Nuno Bettercourt (Rihanna’s tour guitarist for several years) and bassist Pat Badger. The only newcomer is drummer Kevin Figueinedo. Although best known for their monster power ballads and Funk Metal, Extreme have crossed many musical barriers over the years, infusing elements of Hard Rock Glam in the early 1990’s and, more recently, experimenting with alternative Metal styles. Wednesday’s set combined all these genres: high energy musical showmanship built on a solid base of Hard Rock riffs, experimental funk and alternative sounds. With only one song recorded in the current millennium, Extreme’s set is, like the Dan Reed Network’s, essentially a nostalgia show, comprising a series of well known classics and greatest hits from their early years. This may imply a bunch of old men wearily plodding through historical successes. Far from it: Extreme burst onto stage with youthful vigour for their explosive opener, ‘It’s a Monster’, from their best selling ‘Pornograffiti’ album. Gary poses and struts all over the stage; Nuno produces mind-blowing guitar riffs, apparently with ease, backed up by Pat’s gut-punching bass. The overall result is a set of dance-friendly Pop, emotional ballads, heavy jams and several songs so well known that the audience drowns out Gary’s vocals. ‘Kid Ego’ took us back to, ‘Extreme’, their debut album; ‘Play With Me’ featured an epic drum duet with Nuno using a stand alone kit alongside Kevin’s main kit. Back on his guitar, Nuno’s solos were as incredible as ever; he took centre stage on several occasions, but most notably during ‘Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee’. The songs sounding as fresh as they did 20 or 30 years ago. As the end of their two hour set approached, Extreme launched into the frantic ‘Decadence Dance’, followed by an exquisite rendering of ‘More than Words’, the intense, passionate ‘Peacemaker Die and a crowning cover of ‘We are the Champions’.



To sum up, an awesome evening of Funk Rock from two bands who have managed to maintain their enthusiasm, vigour, athleticism and, above all, musical abilities into their 50’s. Their music, from an inventive, exciting era, has proved durable and memorable, leading to an adrenaline fuelled evening of soaring melodies, infectious grooves and a party atmosphere. The second coming of both bands provides perfect examples of audiences keeping the faith and bands rediscovering their mojo. Long may they, and their loyal followers, prosper.



Dan Reed Network set list:



Cruise Together

Under My Skin

Forgot to Make Her Mine

Baby Now I

Rainbow Child

Champion

Make it Easy

Ritual

Get to You



Extreme set list:



It’s a Monster

Li’l Jack Horny

Get the Funk Out

Rest in Peace

Hip Today

Kid Ego

Play With Me

Tragic Comic

Hole Hearted

Midnight Express

Cupid’s Dead

Am I Ever Gonna Change

Take Us Alive

Stop the World

Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee

He-Man Woman Hater

Decadence Dance

More Than Words

Peacemaker Die

We are the Champions

Who Cares?

Christmas Time Again



Big Ian (Photos courtesy of Laurence Harvey)

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