Concert Reviews

Dan Reed Network / Mason Hill / Hollowstar (Chester 2018) Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     December 26, 2018    
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Dan Reed Network / Mason Hill / Hollowstar - The Live Rooms, Chester (UK) - 17 November 2018

It was a busy night in Chester. Christmas shoppers were filling the pubs and most of the hotels were sporting "No Vacancy" signs. The mood was good and I was glad to see a queue of people waiting to enter the Live Rooms. Two weeks previously I attended a Devilskin show in the same venue and the attendance was poor to say the least. The Dan Reed Network experience is one I've enjoyed many times in the past and with a new album ('Origins') and 4 brand new songs to promote, the evening is filled with anticipation. Excitement levels are raised with the addition of two young upcoming bands as support, both with strong live pedigrees.

Hollowstar are new to me, but it is obvious they already have a following and after tonight's performance it is easy to see why. Their sound can be described as Classic Rock, with a two guitar, bass and drum set-up. Lead-singer (and bass player) Joe has a nice line in head-wear and an excellent voice and though he tended to waffle on between songs the gratitude he expressed seems genuine and sincere. The band began three years ago in St. Ives in Cambridgeshire and the 2017 'Some Things Matter' six-track EP shows maturity and quality song-writing. Two more singles, 'All I Gotta Say' and 'Let You Down', released in 2018, continued that trend and all the songs included in tonight's thirty-minute set made an impact, with the slow-building 'Feel The Burn' of particular note. One to keep an eye on for sure.

Glasgow based Mason Hill I have encountered before, firstly at the 2017 Hair Metal Heaven festival in Hull, when the sound issues in a small venue did them no favours, even though their energy and enthusiasm was clearly evident. Then again, more recently, as one of the best bands for me at the 2018 Rockingham event. They have a great set of songs and manage to showcase a Classic Rock attitude through some instant hooks and melodies. Songs such as 'Survive', 'Wait For You' and the more recent 'Hold On' have drawn comparisons to Nickelback, but I think MH have a strong identity of their own, without referencing other artists. Guitarist James Bird's emotional soloing and Scott Taylor's vocals blend naturally alongside Marc Montgomery (guitar), Matthew Ward (bass) and Craig McFetridge (drums), and it will be good when they have more than just a 4 track EP and digital single on the market to showcase their skills. A full-length album is scheduled for 2019 so everything looks good.

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With the crowd well and truly warmed up by Hollowstar and Mason Hill, the main event arrived on stage just before 9.30pm and then stalled, as drummer Dan Pred (Happy Birthday) had forgotten an integral piece of equipment. Much hilarity ensued as Dan Reed and guitarist Brion James led an improvised sing-a-long with the unfortunate drummer as the victim. Things finally got under way with 'Rock You All Night Long', a song I don't think I've heard live in recent times. DRN do have a reputation for mixing the set-list around and that is one of the qualities that brings me back time after time.

Dan Reed Network Live Chester 2018 1

Recent criticism has been levelled at the band for straying from the Funk side of their musical style, but they have always been so much more than that. They blend Rock, Funk and Pop into their music with ease and this blend of styles is difficult to categorise and also makes them quite unique. The ability to mix up-tempo, high-energy material such as 'Resurrect', 'Under My Skin' and 'Forgot To Make Her Mine' with slower tracks such as 'Rainbow Child', 'Champion' and 'Stronger Than Steel' highlights great musicianship and creative song-writing.

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The new 'Origins' release was represented by 'Fade To Light' and 'Right In Front Of Me' with no dip in quality, and though the album had only been available for a very short time many of the crowd already knew the words. 'Baby Now I' contained snippets of 'I Was Made For Loving You', 'Enter Sandman' and even some White Stripes (much to DR's chagrin). It is meant to appear improvised, but bassist Melvin Brannon confessed to me after the show that it is actually well rehearsed... not a surprise Melvin. Brion James took the microphone for 'Save The World', followed by keyboard player Rob Daiker performing his own 'All For A Kiss', emphasising in the process the depth of talent in the band. 'Ritual' brought things to a close before everyone came to the front of the stage to lead an a capella version of 'Long Way To Go' (during which my singing was fantastic).

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Though security were keen to usher everyone from the room at the show's close, all five band members stayed as long as needed to chat and sign things. A fantastic night, featuring three top quality bands. The show was so good that I purchased tickets for the Manchester show that closed the tour a week later.

Dave Bott

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