Seeing bands you don’t know that well is always interesting. Potential horrors await, as as the chance to walk away with a spring in your step and a commitment to check out a back catalogue and find out more.
So a Friday night trip to Warehouse 23 in Wakefield saw the chance to catch up with an opening act I didn’t know Vega and the Dan Reed Network, who are touring a new album and updating their funk rock licks for 2017.
Vega ripped through a set ideally suited to warming up a West Yorkshire crowd on a damp night. It betrayed a heritage of working in bands and playing up and down the clubs and pubs of country for many years. There’s strong songwriting behind the riffs and choruses, with numbers like Hands in the Air and White Flag giving the evening a flying start. Check out the stomping What the Hell to get a flavour of what makes these guys a worthy live act.
Dan Reed Network entered to a throb of bass which had everyone rumbling from minute one. This is rock underpinned by a serious groove that nods its head to soul and funk of the seventies and eighties as much as classic rock. And they have fun too. There’s real rapport and positivity abuzz on stage, infusing and enthusing the gathered masses. Channeling the spirit of Frankie Goes To Hollywood and more made sure we were heading to be relaxed, on a boogie, boogie night...
Then a minor interruption to proceedings as drummer Dan Pred whacked his kit sufficiently viciously to see an emergency new rack tom tom needed. While this interlude kept roadies busy, these professionals kept the show going picking up song requests...
From the new ‘Fight Another Day’ we had Infected - a serious slab of funk infection. Dan’s songs aren’t ashamed to make political points and the band enjoyed chance to make clear what they feel about the latest resident of the White House.
Demand from the crowd swayed between wanting Champion from the new album or 1989’s Rainbow Child. No problem - any set list was waved goodbye and the two favourites had everyone singing along and getting involved. By now we had a refreshed tom tom ready to get a work out, and Ritual was next up as the band fought to hear themselves through their foldback.
The band might be named after the lead singer and main songwriter, but everyone gets a turn in the spotlight. Guitarist Brion James took over lead vocals with the reggae inflected Save the World, which were followed by a return to the early DRN catalogue, with Mind and Body and Tiger in a dress.
I said everyone gets a go. Well, keyboard player Rob Daiker was next up getting a go. He’s multi-instrumentalist, so the he leaves he hi tech and is armed with a Fender Strat. Left alone on stage, he plays us a track called All For A Kiss from his own 2016 album. As the rest of the band returns to join him for the song finale, we’re driven into closing numbers including another new album thumper Divided and vintage Under My Skin.
Will we get encores? Hell yes. I recognise that riff. Its Melvin Brannon Jr on bass, channeling the spirit of the late, great Phil Lynott and a storming romp through the classic Thin Lizzy Jailbreak. How to close down an evening like that? Well it was a band gathered together at the front of the stage, instruments set aside and a genuinely moving close harmony Long Way To Go, keeping the political thread through to the end.
If you missed out on this, the tour continues and there’s more northern dates with the band and a Dan Reed solo gig at Guiseley Theatre on March 31.