Dan Reed Network with Mason Hill and Hollowstar at Club Academy: Live Review
Words: Anne Estella & Anthony Firmin | Photos: Anthony Firmin
The legendary Dan Reed Network are about to mark the conclusion of their Origins UK tour, which has been running throughout November, with a final show at Manchester’s Club Academy, supported by up and coming Glaswegian quintet Mason Hill and Cambridgeshire rockers, Hollowstar.
Formed just three years ago, Hollowstar unleashed their acclaimed debut EP ‘Some Things Matter’ in 2017 and are by all accounts on a rapid trajectory for rock superstardom. I’ve been impatiently waiting for them to grace the stage of one of Manchester’s many celebrated live music venues, and that wish is about to be granted. The foursome, which includes brothers Jon Bonson on vocals and bass and Jack Bonson on drums, inflict a fresh-yet-classic rock ‘n’ roll assault on the ears and exude the sort of confidence you’d expect from a band that has been together for donkeys’ years. Joe possesses charisma, stage presence and an effortlessly cool vibe, not to mention stellar vocals and a genuine humbleness that make him an instantly likeable frontman. “This has been the most beautiful four weeks of my life” Joe declares to the audience, before thanking Dan Reed for his support in inviting Hollowstar and Mason Hill on the tour.
The set includes the songs Lay Down, New Age Lullaby and Feel The Burn and Joe introduces the latter by explaining how it was written about depression and the isolation of being in a desperately dark place emotionally. He emphasizes that taking the time to really listen to someone pour their heart out when they are most in need, can make all the difference. Written from a deeply personal perspective, the song is loaded with so much sentiment, that the raw emotion not only comes through in Joe’s voice, but seems to emanate from him as he performs it. The lyrics are entirely relatable, and the slow-building, atmospheric delivery is so all–consuming, that my eyes are moistened within moments. Not only is it a stunningly beautiful modern rock song, but it reveals the enormous potential that this young band have within their grasp.
Lightening the mood, Joe asks who in the crowd has seen Hollowstar before, which is met by loud cheers. He then asks who hasn’t seen the band before, following up his question with the cheeky response “It’s okay, I like virgins best”! The energy is taken all the way back up with Let You Down, a track that was recently placed at No.2 in Classic Rock Magazine’s heavy rotation column and the band close out with their single All I Gotta Say, which was Planet Rock Radio’s 8th most played track in the five weeks following its release. The crowd enthusiastically joins in the compulsive chorus “Bye-bye baby, goodbye” while Jack shows off some skillful drumstick spinning and the two masterful axemen shred like it’s the last night of the tour! The future of British rock has never felt so secure.
Joe Bonson – Vocals/Bass
Phil Haines - Guitar
Tom Collett - Guitar
Jack Bonson - Drums
New Age Lullaby
Feel The Burn
Let You Down
All I Gotta Say
Mason Hill are a band that I’ve seen before and frankly couldn’t wait to see again! The band members comprise a unique blend of personalities, who seamlessly combine together to form a dexterous collective of super talented young musicians. This is their first ever support tour and the first time I’ve seen them since they parted company with Frontiers Records. The set begins with the slow intro of No Regret, followed by vocalist Scott Taylor’s roar at the start of Survive. Something’s not quite right though… Taylor’s power-pipes don’t quite have their usual strength and it turns out he’s come down with a cold, which sadly nobody is immune to.
Taylor soldiers on triumphantly through the set, showcasing the awesome energy and vibrancy that I love about Mason Hill. Drummer Craig McFetridge is a force of nature… the precise, thunderous drumbeats he produces are tantamount to high magnitude tremors that each risk causing an earthquake at any moment, and all performed with a beaming smile that lets you know he’s having the time of his life! None of the musicians try to steal the limelight and there are some sublime moments where guitarist Marc Montgomery and bassist Matthew Ward jam together, and others where James Bird stands out with a stunning guitar solo. The on-stage interaction between band members is second to none and they are, quite simply, tighter than Scrooge on Christmas morning.
The nine-song set is taken in a slightly different direction with Against The Wall, with its slow and steady verses, blood-pumping grooves and powerful choruses, before Taylor gives his heartfelt thanks to each one of his bandmates for their camaraderie and fine musicianship on tour. The penultimate song is the one I’ve been waiting for, my personal favourite and probably the most well known Mason Hill single, Now You See Me, and the lads do not disappoint. The bruising, high-octane stomper is the highlight of the set and ends to huge cheers from very satisfied fans. The last song, Cochise, is performed as a touching tribute to the late Chris Cornell, and is delivered with spirit, style and grace. Mason Hill have not only impressed, but have exceeded expectations that were already sky high and are building on a well-laid foundation as Scotland’s hottest property on the ‘New Wave Of Classic Rock’ block.
Mason Hill are:
Scott Taylor - Lead Vocals
James Bird - Lead Guitar
Marc Montgomery - Guitar
Matthew Ward - Bass
Craig McFetridge - Drums
Out Of Reach
Wait For You
Against The Wall
Where I Belong
Now You See Me
The Dan Reed Network, the late 80's band who's rocket motors fired towards the big time but whose spaceship sadly didn't rise. Several outstanding albums released too, including a debut which remains one of my favourites, astonishing really, and watching this show still makes me wonder still wonder…. why?
The band are beyond tight, they are glued together, a togetherness that is rare to find amongst artists and Dan Reed himself is the consummate front man - chatty, witty and dynamic. The songs are still as strong, the music just as powerful and with a fan base still as dedicated as ever.
Rock You All Night Long and Resurrection bounce along, Reed could have written Forgot To Make Her Mine for me - a repeating story of my life whereas Rainbow Child continues to resonate with it's beauty and hope (I am going to let him off for writing it in the parking lot of a Grateful Dead concert though, just this once).
After some respite with Rob's Song the band funked it up with Get To You much to the delight of the audience and it gets to me too. It's great to hear Tiger In A Dress again as it bops along nicely! Dedicating Stronger Than Steel to all those who put trust and raise children is a nice touch even though his own child, who is visiting this evening, is more interested in Minecraft than watching his uber cool dad onstage.
Champion is beautiful, Save The World with its reggae vibe is clearly being enjoyed too. But with many of these gigs the best is left to last: Do It All For Love gets the crowd and Dan's son Joshua dancing, and there is even more dancing as a medley of disco hits is played.
We are over time and the band will be charged by the minute but Mr Reed doesn't care, there is more music to play and he will pay the bill: we are his Ritual as he doesn't want to let us go! As it is the last date of the tour all the bands came on stage for a singing congregation - A Long Way To Go. The most perfect of ways to end the show, I can't wait for the next one.