When this tour was first announced, I was in musical heaven – two of my favourite British melodic rock bands on the same billing. Throw Wayward Sons frontman and former Little Angel Toby Jepson into the mix and a great night out with quality music was guaranteed. FM are increasing in popularity over the last few years and are finally achieving the commercial success long over-due to them. They would also be promoting their recently released Automatic Generation album. I guess the same is also applicable to Dare, who are due to soon release a new version of their classic Out of The Silence debut album. Adding to the sense of occasion was that this Manchester show would represent a homecoming for the band and thus anticipation levels were at a premium even before the stage lights came on. Some nice summertime weather also added a shine to the day pre-show, as fans started to gather early in the surrounding pubs several hours before the venue doors opened for the show.
Unfortunately, due to several major large musical events happening on the same day and the resulting traffic chaos, I didn’t make it into the venue in time to see Toby serve up what I heard was an acoustic musical delight as he played a set list that traversed his musical career from past to present. With the crowd suitably warmed up, anticipation levels began to rise for the much-awaited return of Dare to a Manchester stage. Looking around me, fan t-shirts appeared to be a quite evenly split between them and tonight’s headliners. With a long set and a decent sound, it was clear that Dare had been favourably treated by FM tonight.
Opening with “Sea of Roses”, I was instantly impressed with the clarity of sound that had been afforded to them which allowed the subtleties of their Celtic-influenced rock music to shimmer with a sparkling quality. Darren Wharton’s vocals have been improving significantly, I feel, as he has embraced fully the role of frontman which contrasted sharply with his younger self as Thin Lizzy’s keyboard player. Back then he preferred to remain in the shadows, but his confidence and stage presence come across as totally natural and comfortable. Vinny Burns never lets his guitarist ego overrun as he enhances both light and shade through his quite exquisite playing. A wide-ranging set from the complete back catalogue before the loudest cheers for the tracks from that Out of the Silence debut were given an airing. A trilogy from that release – “Abandon”, “Into the Fire”, and “Raindance” – before tributes to former Thin Lizzy Frontman Phil Lynott with Dare’s “King of Spades” and Lizzy’s own “Emerald”. In conclusion, I have been a fan of Dare since that debut album’s release and I feel that the passing years have only enhanced the band’s musical quality both in recorded form and in a live setting.
Tonight’s headliners, FM, have a new album to promote and thus they kick off the nights set with the great Black Magic from that very release. Not quite an artistic gamble as its catchy melodies quickly engages what is nearly a full house audience. Steve Overland continues to live up to the voice of rock billing as his vocals continue to show their eternal quality unravaged by the passage of the years. A nice mix of old and new keeps and maintains the fans interest and it is quite noticeable that even the newer songs generate the same fervour and passionate response as the older anthems. “Closer to Heaven” is offered up in homage to a dearly departed friend of the band and its poignant lyrics strike a personal chord with me as it causes me to reflect on recently lost friends and family members. In total contrast, upbeat numbers like “That Girl” and “I Belong to the Night” herald the sort of dancing that used to be reserved for the venues weekend club nights which my girlfriend Nicky promoted. Bringing Dare vocalist back on stage for a run through of Thin Lizzy’s classic “The Boys Are Back in Town” ends the night on a party theme and illustrates perfectly the friendship both between the 2 bands and also their audience as I survey widespread smiles and mutual camaraderie all around me. A fantastic night of musical delights all played a part both on and off the stage.
All photos © Mark Ellis