Dan Reed Network + FM + Gun
Wednesday 11th December
O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire, London
Three Bands, Three Decades, Three Classic Albums - we are going to party like it’s 1989! Earlier this month, London's O2 Shepherds Bush Empire celebrated some of the best Rock music from the 80's - Gun playing 'Taking On The World', FM doing 'Tough It Out' and Dan Reed Network finishing off with 'Slam'. A 10-date national tour, this suggested rather excellent value for money and a bit of an early Christmas present to myself! But this wasn’t starter, main and pudding, this was much more three roast turkey and stuffing dinners, so to fit all this fine dining into one evening, we kick straight off at 7pm. That’s barely enough time to change into my leather jacket after work and grab a quick pint before the dry ice and the opening chords of Gun and ‘Better Days’!
The Scottish five-piece hit the stage with the iconic Gun logo behind them and we are transported back to the 80's for an evening of Classic Rock. The venue may not be completely sold out but enough Christmas shoppers have been drawn away from Westfield to make the place feel comfortably full. We work our way through the album list with ‘Inside Out’, ‘Shame On You’ and ‘Something To Believe In’ shaking the dust off my adolescent memories! Their Scottish roots are emphasised with the Celtic scarf wrapped around the guitarist's neck and we rock through the album and some famous extras such as their version of Cameo’s ‘Word Up’ which was one of Gun’s most popular live numbers making the Top Ten in 1994. The finale is ‘Steal Your Fire’ another classic and it feels all over too soon, but there is only a short break with just enough time to grab another beer and change the back drop for FM to keep the rockin’ vibe going.
Formed in London in 1984, FM have rocked with some of the best Rock bands in history. The line up has had some minor changes over time, but with Steve Overland on guitar and vocals, brother Chris Overland on lead guitar/backing vocals, Merv Goldsworthy on bass and Pete Jupp on drums (dressed in a rather ‘Wedding Singer' style waistcoat!) the core sound is still there. Jem Davis on keyboards is dramatically dressed in leather lace up trousers and leather tank top, rocks away at the back in dramatic form occasionally coming to the front with a ‘keytar’ to chug along with the rest of the band. Rather silver haired these days, FM still can push out a big sound and as they open with ‘Tough It Out’ we are transported back to the heyday of the British Soft Metal scene. FM can chug with the best! With the harmonies and keyboards supporting excellent vocals and two guitars, the FM sound is easy to roll with and they play tracks from their first to latest album. This gig is top value!
And yet there is more, as ‘I Belong to the Night’ is still fading away, the back drop changes once again to herald the arrival of Dan Reed Network. DRN are a WRC favourite, with Dan himself deservedly winning our Best Unplugged award in 2017. Indeed, we even found out after the gig, when we met up with our hero, that Dan has our award hanging up in his studio! Dan himself comes out onto the stage and kicks off the last third of the show with a short solo before the band join him and start the funky Rock riffs that are their signature. My gig notes run thin here as not only was I too busy rockin’ out with Dan and Co, but I bump into my old buddy and neighbour who lent me my first Dan Reed CD 30 years ago! Perhaps not that a big coincidence, but neither of us knew the other was coming!
So a bit of a different kind of reunion caps off a great night with ‘Tiger in Dress’, ‘Under My Skin’, ‘Forgot to Make Her Mine’ - to mention just a few. Melvin Brannon never ceases to amaze with the sounds he manages to produce from his bass as he funks it up! Brion James with his distinctive braids crunches out the riffs, with Dan Pred on drums keeping the beat going. Rob Daiker on keyboards insists afterwards that he really is a guitarist, but we think he does a pretty good job tickling the ivories too. Reed as ever, bounces around the stage with boundless energy and ends the night and keeps it non-binary with his girl/boy quip on ‘Come Back Baby’! Eventually we are transported back to 2019 with security ushering us out to the cold December air, but we sneak back round to the foyer to catch up and grab some selfies with the Dan and the band. Only just enough time to make the last train home from London Bridge, but what great value, three for the price of one! A great way to top off my Wrinkly Rockin’ Year with my three course Christmas Rockin’ Dinner!