Thursday 14th September 2017
St. Pancras Old Church, London
Last Thursday saw the opening date of singer-songwriter Dan Reed’s second UK tour in 2017, although anyone attending both tours, and unfamiliar with Dan’s work, could be forgiven for not realising it was the same artist. The first tour, in Spring, was as leader of the Dan Reed Network, an established American Rock band that, over the last 30 years, has recorded half a dozen studio albums and enthralled live audiences with heavy Funk enhanced by a gritty Rock feel. (AJ’s review of the London leg of that tour can be found at www.wrinklyrockersclub.com under “2017 Reviews - January to March”). However, as Dan Reed aficionados well know, Dan also records the occasional solo album, in a style that contrasts sharply with that of the Dan Reed Network. His solo work comprises primarily of simple, acoustic songs, often with a political or religious edge. He’s written many electronic tracks, normally recorded with his own vocals, but occasionally using sampled vocals from different political speakers. They also have a strong international flavour, reflecting Dan’s experiences from his time in Jerusalem, Hong Kong, New Delhi, Prague and London.
Dan’s current tour is to promote his latest solo album: ‘Confessions’, launched at Thursday’s gig and officially released the day after. For ‘Confessions’, his fourth solo album, Dan wanted to push his own comfort zone as a keyboardist and guitarist, creating something entirely from self-expression. It therefore sees him performing all the live instruments and vocals alongside programming the beats and synth parts, although there are special guest appearances by guitarists Rob Daiker, Geoff Tyson and Martin Tidmarsh, who provide the solos for ‘Smile’ and ‘The Great Divide’, while Rob Daiker also added some drum programming and mixed the album. ‘Confessions’ leaves the politics and social commentary of Dan’s earlier solo albums behind, to concentrate on journeys into, and out of, love. But not the traditional, over exploited theme of sugar coated, idealistic love: Dan’s songs explore the compassion, empathy and warmth of friends and family that unite and inspire us. The result is a beautifully composed, chilled out, Electro/Acoustic Soul album about retaining our passion for life.
Thursday’s performance was held at St. Pancras Old Church, a beautifully restored parish church half way between Camden High Street and St. Pancras station. This stunning venue has been available for concerts since 2011 and has rapidly become an established live music venue, especially for new artists and album launches. It may not have the audience capacity or massive sound systems of larger venues, but the sombre, yet colourful surroundings provided a perfect intimate and tranquil setting for Dan’s melodic, acoustic set. The church was also a particularly appropriate background for the religious themes present in several of Dan’s songs. During one of Thursday’s many anecdotal interludes, Dan mentioned his strict religious upbringing in South Dakota, where he first found his love of music singing in the school choir. His music tastes changed to less reverent themes during his teenage years when his favourite songs, which included ‘Running with the Devil’ and ‘Highway to Hell’, were not entirely compatible with his religious upbringing. More recently, during a hiatus from the music business in his 40’s, Dan spent four years in a Tibetan Monastery in northern India and then studying religions in Jerusalem. It is no wonder that many recent songs, including several sung at the St. Pancras Old Church, have religious themes such as the conflict between different religions, in ‘Jerusalem Sky’ and ‘Promised Land’, or exploring the effect of love on hate and conflict, in ‘Only Love’ and ‘Long Way to Go’.
Dan started Thursday’s set with universally known favourites ‘Fire and Rain’, ‘Feels Like Home’ and ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’. Having set the scene for the evening with his passionate vocals and precise guitar playing, Dan opened it up to requests. The audience was not slow to respond; most of them were old enough to have followed Dan since the release of his first album 30 years ago, and they all seemed familiar with Dan’s extensive back catalogue, both as an acoustic soloist and as leader of the Dan Reed Network. Highlights from the long list of requests were ‘Coming Up for Air’, about the power of love, ‘Indestructible’, about the joy and pain of love, and ‘Champion’, about changing relationships. The requests were interspersed with songs from the new album, not requested because it hadn’t been released yet, with one exception: there were repeated requests for ‘Smile’, released as a single just a month ago, but already viewed over 120,000 times on YouTube. Smile is about tuning out the noise and chaos of our daily lives, and finding solace in the simple smile of someone we share the road of life with. The audience continued to shout out requests, ever more loudly and frantically as Dan’s two hour was coming to an end. He finished with ‘Day One’, a thank-you to all his supporters, both in the audience, and working behind the scenes, and, finally, ‘Tiger in a Dress’, a Dan Reed Network song that finished the evening on a faster, rockier high.
In conclusion, Thursday evening was a combination of songs from Dan’s earlier albums, with primarily religious and political themes, and a selection from his new album exploring the effect of love on our lives. The evening demonstrated beyond doubt Dan’s ability to play quieter, more melodic songs, with the same passion and vitality he exhibits in the Dan Reed Network. As further evidence of his ability to switch seamlessly between music genres, in December Dan returns to the UK again, reunited with his Network, to support Extreme on his third UK tour of 2017. It is likely to sell out as quickly as the first two.