Thunder and Dan Reed – 6th February 2019 – Gateshead Sage
By Kevin Burdon (Kevin Burdon Photography)
Dan Reed opened the evening, abandoning the funky riffage of the Dan Reed Network for a more laid back acoustic style. He’s not an artist that I’m massively familiar with, but his set was very impressive and his vocals were superb, particularly on an acoustic cover of ‘Holy Diver’, which he dedicated to Ronnie James Dio.
You could tell by the response from the crowd that he had a lot of his own fans in attendance, but his excellent performance did a good job of winning over a lot of the Thunder faithful too. Even solo on an acoustic guitar he still brought some funk with ‘Get to You’, before finishing his set with a beautifully delivered acapella rendition of ‘All My Loving’ which received a standing ovation from sections of the audience.
Thunder were touring their new album, Please Remain Seated, which sees them revisit songs from throughout their career and give them a new minimalist arrangement. If you’re familiar with Thunder’s live show, the idea of them doing an unplugged set in an all-seated venue might seem a bit strange… A band famous for their hard rock anthems (that are made for dancing) playing acoustically in an all-seated venue is one of those concepts that can go one of two ways, and I was curious to see how it would turn out!
I’ve seen Thunder play all of their hits on umpteen occasions over the past 15 years, so the prospect of them playing a non-standard setlist with some curveball selections and different interpretations was something I’d been really looking forward to. I’d deliberately avoided listening to the Please Remain Seated album prior to the gig, as I wanted to reserve judgement of the reimagined songs for the live performance, and I wasn’t disappointed.
The set began with only Danny Bowes and Luke Morley on stage, delivering a stunning stripped back version of ‘Love Walked In’, with Morley on 12 string acoustic and Bowes bringing out a much more subtle and nuanced performance to the well-worn classic. The rest of the band joined them on stage for an almost country-ish version of Stand Up, and the mood was set for the evening. The atmosphere on stage was very loose and relaxed, the band joking with the crowd and each other between songs.
The minimalist genre-swapping arrangements were not only refreshing to hear, but they also gave the band a chance to cut loose and show what they could do and experiment a bit more on their instruments than they would normally in a standard Thunder set. Chris Childs on bass was particularly impressive on a chilled-out jazz version of ‘Girl’s Going Out Of Her Head’ – one of the biggest stylistic surprises of the night if you’re familiar with the frenetic, riff-driven original version!
A slow bluesy version of ‘Loser’ further proved the point that a damn good song is a damn good song regardless of how it’s arranged, and it gave Morley a chance to lay down some more sumptuous lead guitar work.
The setlist blended the songs from Please Remain Seated album with other reworked arrangements from their back catalogue. Classics like ‘River of Pain’ and ‘Higher Ground’ were given fresh legs with the new versions and got the crowd singing along loudly, while newer songs like ‘Resurrection Day’ really stood out in the live setting.
My personal highlight of the night was an outstanding delivery of ‘A Better Man’, with Danny Bowes showing he’s still one of the best classic rock voices in the business. It was immaculately observed by the packed Sage crowd and you could have heard a pin drop in the quiet sections, everyone was so transfixed on the performance.
The band closed the set with a sensational arrangement of ‘Low Life in High Places’, which has always been one of their best-written songs, and the stripped back orchestration added extra weight to it. Starting with just vocals and piano it gradually built up to the powerful chorus and instrumental section, including a guest appearance of a choir, who were suddenly illuminated behind the back curtain. The band left the stage to a standing ovation, promising to be back soon with a fully electric set.
Credit to Thunder for taking a chance and trying something new, rather than just doing another standard “hits” tour, and it genuinely felt like witnessing something special on stage. The experiment paid off!
Love Walked In
River Of Pain
Girl’s Going Out of Her Head
A Better Man
Fly on the Wall
Just Another Suicide
Bigger Than Both of Us
Robert Johnson’s Tombstone
She’s So Fine
Low Life In High Places
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