Gig review: EXTREME/Dan Reed Network – Bristol Academy, 18 December 2017

Dan Reed Network - Bristol Academy, 18 December 2017

A double bill tour that not only sees the return of Extreme to these shores – capitalising soon after a headline slot headline at this summer’s Ramblin Man – but also the return of the groove masters in Dan Reed Network who seem to be playing, thankfully, far more frequently now than ever before. So expectations were high for a few hours of over indulgence of musical artistry and fun.

With a delay getting everyone in to the venue due to more stringent safety checks at the entrance, the ones that missed some of Dan Reed, missed a show of sheer class, with a frontman as captivating as Dan who just relishes being on stage. A career spanning setlist surpisingly only featuring one song from the current album, fused with some of the big hitters of their first two albums, the highly energetic ‘Cruise Together’ and  ‘Under My Skin’ kick things off .

Dan Reed Network - Bristol Academy, 18 December 2017

Brion James makes his playing look easy underneath the flailing dreadlocks, his guitar appears to be an almost grafted part of him, while always seeming to be the happiest guy in the venue, a very underated player.

In my eyes the Network work far better on stage than on record.  Songs like ‘Rainbow Child’ – which always came over as twee back on its release – 30 years later sounds much fuller, taking on a more dynamic persona when played live.

The DRN set was quick, and without any over indulgence, the last few times I have caught them live it looks effortless and a lot of fun: a band on top of their game at this moment, and could easily have filled this place on their own.

Dan Reed Network - Bristol Academy, 18 December 2017

At 9:15, with the academy getting hotter than hell and literally no room to move, Extreme exploded onto stage with ‘It’s A Monster’, Gary Cherone on top of the drum riser raising out the mic stand to receive the massive applause, whilst Nuno Bettencourt who looks the same as he did when they released Pornografitti (really annoying!) replicates the guitar parts note for note.

Pat Badger and Nuno trading licks centre stage for the intro  to ‘Get The Funk Out’ is a surprise given it’s only the third song but nevertheless instantly sent the crowd into a frenzy, arms aloft singing the chorus back.

Gary Cherone, covers every inch of the stage while preening and strutting, he is another of the rare breeed of vocalists from that era that has his voice intact, sometimes not easy to tell in the rock/funk out songs of ‘Rest In Peace’ or ‘Kid Ego’, however when the band slow things down slightly with an acoustic trio of songs it becomes far more evident.

Again it was the big songs that worked better this evening, ‘Hole Hearted’ getting everyone in the crowd to respond far more vocally than during the lesser well known songs, even prompting one rather disgruntled fan near me to shout out “play something we know”, thankfully not loud enough for the band to hear.

While the band played in total 21 songs, it was the hits that garnered the best responses and maybe a little too much emphasis on over extending songs and solos.

If you are a guitarist then tonight was all about Nuno Bettencourt, the guy is like a machine, clinical in delivering the solos as they were on the record, you could have stood there all evening in amazement at what this guy could do.  But it tended to get a bit tedious after a while and, with the acoustic solo, while technically out of this world almost had me looking for the nearest exit for a reprieve.

When Extreme rock out there are not many bands who can match them, A brutal ‘Decadence Dance’, always a favourite of mine signalled the end of the main set, only for a four song encore featuring that song, Gary and Nuno sitting on stools teasing us that it is time to play that song as Bettencourt starts the intro for ‘Stairway To Heaven’…

‘More Than Words’ must be a bittersweet moment in their history; it gained them mainstream recogniton and great success from thereon in, and it was the song most people in the Academy wanted to hear tonight judging by the reaction.   Just a shame as they do have better songs to be remembered for.

Tonight culminated with  ‘We Are The Champions’, the Queen track, taking myself back to the day at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Show when they did what Queen did back at Live Aid.

The show as a whole was a great night musically, I think it would have worked better as a co-headliner with both bands getting the same amount of time, but I am being picky.  It is  a real positive that both these bands are enjoying a resurgence in popularity again and that can only be a good thing.

Review and photos by Darren Griffiths

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