I don’t review gigs very often. I have always loved live music and find it difficult to relax and enjoy the moment if I’m constantly making notes and thinking about the set list. So tonight, as with most gigs, I bought a ticket to again see Reed and Vaughn try to sell their snake oil and harmony as well as a pint and came with a friend.
But a few minutes in to this flawless performance I’m caught by the idea that I am lucky to have a medium through which to share just how good these two artists are at captivating a crowd and delivering two hours of passion, laughter and melody.
Having both made their names fronting rock bands that were no strangers to arenas and radio airplay, both also proved equally comfortable as solo singer-songwriters. With absolutely no disrespect to the rest of Tyketto and The Network, these two fellas were the creative engines that propelled the groups to notoriety and success. And whilst both still play to eager crowds with the aforementioned, and I for one catch them every chance I get, it’s in this setting that their talent – and unwavering love of music – really shines.
Having deliberately avoided any reviews of earlier dates on this ‘Snake Oil And Harmony’ tour or set list spoilers, I was expecting a short set from each of them followed by maybe a joint encore where they jam one of their hits or a cover that works as both singalong. So it was with genuine intrigue and delight that I spied two stools side by side on the low stage of The Slade Rooms.
With a warning that the seats are wooden and polished and based on sound check they fear they may slide off, Dan Reed launches the evening with a slippery stools joke and then rips into ‘Baby Now I’ with customary gusto. If ever you needed a backing vocalist you couldn’t help but be blessed to have Mr Vaughn harmonising with you like the legend he is.
He’s also been taking requests online, which I often find doesn’t work out well (‘Metallica By Request’ – tens of thousands of fans picked Sandman and Creeping Death. Thanks. We’d have never heard them do those tracks live otherwise) but a fine batch of old and new has been selected. It’s a testament to the breadth of his catalogue and the effort he puts into his shows that Danny has clearly had to go back and re-learn some of this stuff, and notes that a couple of songs have never been done acoustically before. You wouldn’t know.
A polished rendition of ‘Traveller’ sees Reed take a back seat but he appears genuinely rapt by his cohort’s performance and as the evening progresses he comments how he worries when to join in and when to stay quiet so as not to risk ‘ruining’ another artist’s work. What is fascinating and easily apparent is they only know bits of each other’s repertoire so there are times when they are watching intently and following before spontaneously bursting in on the second chorus and times when it feels like I must have missed that they were in a band together for years. There is a chemistry onstage as well as a mutual respect for each other’s work that flows out into the crowd and serves as a fitting reminder that music is art and is a precious thing to be savoured and appreciated.
Mr Reed follows with ‘What Dreams May Come’ from latest masterpiece “Transmission” and the alternating of sources continues with the title track of Vaughn‘s hugely underrated solo outing “Fearless”. Continuing the theme Dan announces he’s about to serenade us with ‘Losing My Fear’. “Ahhhh – one guy likes this song” he responds to some idiot in the crowd who cheered overly-excitedly at the mention of the title. I am not at liberty to say who that idiot was. It does seem like some of the crowd know little of his post-Network solo stuff, but the rapturous applause at the end signals a likely new bunch of converts and confirms I was right to yelp with glee a few minutes earlier. I mean…whoever that guy was, was right.
Having spoken so eloquently about spirituality, Dan then observes that although he was raised catholic he was never molested by priests. He pauses and then opines that he is still bitter that he wasn’t cute enough. Fortunately the crowd are onside and he gets a big laugh but it’s a welcome reminder that whilst much of his material is emotional and serious that there is a huge sense of fun and mischief too.
Doffing my cap yet again to those who put in requests, Danny soars on the “Waysted” classic ‘To The Night’. A brief memory shared about writing with Pete Way reveals that the memories are somewhat few and far between from that period due to Pete‘s fondness for creative juice. The mesmerising ‘Brave New World’ glows anew with Danny‘s improvised harmonies. Oh my, that voice. Dan is clearly a fan too and his own request is for ‘Standing Alone’ – and who can blame him. He explains how he cannot resist joining in and does a little more each night but remains careful not to tread too heavily on Vaughn‘s wonderful anthem.
The amazing work in progress feel comes across yet again and it’s a privilege to be watching this musical relationship evolve. The duo absolutely nail Springsteen‘s ‘My Hometown’ and I cannot be the only one with goosebumps by the end. It never sounded this good when The Boss played it – and he sets a high bar.
Proving his versatility in spades, Danny plays his version of Leanne Rimes’ ‘Suddenly’ and also ‘Damn’, with an uplifting ‘Closer’ (from the flawless “Coming Up For Air” album) sandwiched neatly in between by Reed. Singalongs don’t get much more joyously life-affirming than the next couplet; ‘Rainbow Child’ and ‘Wing’s back to back. Worth the entry price alone.
Vaughn‘s vocals again add flair to ‘Stronger Than Steel’ and another well placed cover gives the audience further chance to see great songwriters appreciating and paying tribute to other great songwriters. Hearing the soft melody of ‘Through Your Hands’ reminds me I don’t listen to John Hyatt often enough and I bet you don’t either. Another pair of classics get us in full voice – ‘Get To You’ and ‘Forever Young’ – both blasted out with the sort of gusto and conviction often lacking when performers do their crowd favourites from early in their career.
Despite having had more than our money’s worth we all bellow rabidly for more and the encore is a spine-tingling ‘Holy Diver’. It’s a track I first saw Dan perform acoustically at Sweden Rock Festival shortly after Dio died and it’s an inspired and unlikely choice to do in this style but the harmonies tonight take it to another level.
In theory the night is ending with both performers offering heartfelt thanks to all present and then belting out ‘Long Way To Go’, but the audience won’t let up and Reed gives Vaughn his own standing ovation and insists he gives us one last serenade.
A genuinely impromptu ‘Last Sunset’ calls the curtain down on one of the best gigs I’ve witnessed in a long time (and I’m at one pretty much every week).I leave with a huge smile on my face and three things on my mind:
- I truly wish that show had been recorded. I’d happily buy a simple, untweaked mixing desk download of that entire evening.
- Both artists clearly picked up new fans who may have started out the night more familiar with their com-padre’s work.
- They’d better not be selling us snake oil when they say there’ll be more of these tours.