1989 was the year that saw the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Tiananmen Square protests, and Band Aid II landed the festive Number 1 spot with ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas? ‘ At the same time, a trio of rock bands were ‘Taking On The World’, if you will excuse the pun.
In this musically fruitful year Dan Reed Network, Gun and FM each produced what has been deemed seminal albums in their discography. The three bands are currently united, not only by this highlight on their resume but also on the road for a run of UK shows that have been billed as the Big 3-0 tour. Tonight the O2 Academy Newcastle intends to party like its 1989.
With the holiday season in full swing, this evening’s proceedings feel like a festive three-course musical banquet. And for starters, Gun head south of the border to perform their debut release in full – deep cuts and all. With an album running time of 43 minutes, the Glasgow based outfit spice up their hour-long setlist with their distinctive take on Cameo’s ‘Word Up’ and the classic ‘Steal Your Fire’.
Whilst set opener ‘Better Days’ feels appropriate, in these troubling times, fan favourites such as ‘Money (Everybody Loves Her)’, ‘Inside Out’ and the title track itself are still a hit with the Geordie fans 30 years after their release.
Gun are the perfect band to get this Christmas Party started, and their take on the Beastie Boys ‘Fight For Your Right …’ is a testament to this. If you missed Gun’s opening set due to the early start time then ‘Shame On You’.
Tonight’s main course comes courtesy of Brit rockers FM, who ease the crowd into the evening with a full airing of their sophomore album Tough It Out. They always say that the second album is the hardest for a band, but try telling this to FM.
The follow-up to their 1986 debut album Indiscreet resulted in a string of crowd-pleasers including ‘Don’t Stop’, ‘Bad Luck’, and ‘Burning My Heart Down’. The latter of which featured Jem Davis on his Eddie Van Halen themed Keytar. And whilst many vocalists more than 30 years into their career may struggle with their singing voices, this is no problem at all for frontman Steve Overland who is in top form this evening.
FM takes the crowd back to the start of their career with ‘That Girl’ from their first record, before closing the show by bringing their set up to the current date with ‘Killed By Love’ from their latest album Atomic Generation.
Headliners the Dan Reed Network delivers a set that is the cherry on top of an evocative musical evening. This album is so rich in classics that during most DRN shows it would be hard to ignore the best part of this record.
A beautiful acapella airing of ‘All My Loving’ immediately grabs the audience’s attention before this gifted troupe of funkateers unleash their festive gifts on their Newcastle fanbase by way of ‘Make It Easy’, ‘Rainbow Child’, ‘Tiger In A Dress’ and the title track itself.
Even though Slam is reaching its milestone 30th anniversary this year, it has aged so well and still sounds as fresh today as it did back in 1989.
‘Stronger Than Steel’ is a beautiful moment in the set and features some emotive playing from Brion James. Whilst Reed’s joyous delivery and energetic performance captivate the Tyneside crowd from the off.
One of the highlights of the evening comes by way of ‘Under My Skin’, which is accompanied by a festive twist. Reed and company segue a few verses of ‘The Christmas Song’ made famous by Nat King Cole, to great effect. Who knew that Dan Reed was also a gifted crooner – is there no end to his talents?
The set and the night comes to its funky conclusion by way of the brilliant ‘Seven Sisters Road’, during which the rather dapper attired Melvin Brannon II steals the spotlight with an astounding solo on his five-string bass. The only thing that is left to say is the Dan Reed Network’s set is a complete ‘Slam Dunk’ from start to finish.
With three bands on the bill, tonight’s show is like opening a time capsule back to the late 80s. And whilst it may have been nostalgic in places, most importantly it was incredibly enjoyable for all.