FM / Dare / Toby Jepson – Manchester O2 Ritz June 9th, 2018
Manchester is basking in an unprecedented run of hot weather and spending the evening in a baking hot dancehall isn’t ideal when one could be sat in a beer garden, but the lure of a night of classic British rock n’ roll is too tempting. We caught the final night of the recent tour that brought together three major names in the UK AOR scene.
Toby Jepson opens the proceedings as people are still milling in from the heat. It’s going to only get hotter though as he tears through some amazing solo acoustic versions of tracks from the debut album by his new band Wayward Sons. There’s room for some of the tunes that made the singer famous, of course, as we’re treated to some classic Little Angels songs (including a beautiful Don’t Wait for Me) and even Deliver Me from his time with Fastway, the band formed by the late ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke when he departed Motörhead. Shawn of the beard he’d been sporting of late, it’s hard to see a difference since the first time we saw him back in the early nineties supporting the likes of Magnum at the Apollo. The music has matured well, too, especially in these stripped-down versions. Toby’s gone too soon, though, and after a very swift break (there’s not much equipment to move when it’s one man and his guitar), it’s time for Dare to take the stage.
It’s a homecoming for Dare as they originated from Oldham in the late eighties when frontman Darren Wharton found himself bandless as Thin Lizzy had split. It’s clear a large portion of the audience has come for this band as the place is bouncing from the off. It’s been far too long since they’ve played in Manchester, despite being playing numerous AOR festivals in the UK and Europe, and it’s a point not lost on Wharton, who looks genuinely thrilled to be back on the stage they first played in 1989.
Despite the upcoming Dare album being a re-recording of their debut Out of the Silence, (the second time they’ve done such an endeavour), this isn’t going to be a predictable set. Drawing from all eras of the band, the seventy-minute set takes in tracks from four of the band’s seven albums. There’s always been a Celtic feel to the band’s music, and this appears to be even stronger now throughout the set. We’re treated to the usual cover of Emerald as a tribute to Phil Lynott (how about throwing a curveball here instead?) and towards the end of the set the band’s own King of Spades – written about the legendary artist – is played.
With Vinny Burns tearing up guitar and Nigel Clutterbuck back in the ranks, Dare is surpassing its powerful ‘glory days’. Wharton’s stunning vocals melting the hearts of the middle-aged women (and, in fairness, some younger fans too) in the audience once more. The only thing that could top this would be a return to the ranks of their original keyboard player – but we don’t think Dr Brian Cox is up for touring anymore.
FM is one of those bands that epitomise British rock. Beautifully melodic and with enough meaty hooks to keep the denim-clad contingent happy. With a new album – Atomic Generation – just released, they kick off with lead track Black Magic and ease effortlessly into I Belong to the Night from their debut album Indiscreet. It’s not going to be a complete nostalgia-fest as the band mix the setlist up with tracks from seven of their albums.
Always full of melody, the set draws heavily from second album Tough It Out. The crowd lap up every note. Singing lines back to the band during almost every tune. Frontman Steve Overland pays tribute to a long-time fan who passed away the week previously with Closer to Heaven and we hope that following it up with Bad Luck would have made that fan smile.
Bassist Merve ‘the Swerve’ Goldsworthy, who bounds about the stage like a man a fraction of his age, and drummer Pete Jupp complete the trio of original members but guitarist Jim Kirkpatrick and Jem Davis have been in the line-up for ten years and they are as tight as a coil.
Joining the band for the last track is Dare’s Darren Wharton, and they tear through a version of Thin Lizzy’s The Boys are Back in Town to a rapturous response. For both bands, it’s a battle cry. The boys are indeed back in town and kicking ass.
Surprisingly, the band hasn’t been playing their seminal hit Frozen Heart on this tour, and it’s a testament to the power of the other songs that there are no grumblings on the way out at the end of the night.
Toby Jepson setlist: Ghost / Radical Your Lover / Small Talk / Don’t Pray For Me / I Ain’t Gonna Cry / Young Gods (Stand Up, Stand Up) / Kickin’ Up Dust / Too Much Too Young / Until The End.
Dare setlist: Sea Of Roses / Home / Until / I’ll Hear You Pray / Days Of Summer / Every Time We Say Goodbye / Emerald / Wings Of Fire / We Don’t Need A Reason / Abandon / Into The Fire / The Raindance / King Of Spades / Return The Heart.
FM setlist: Black Magic / I Belong To The Night / Life Is A Highway / Let Love Be The Leader / Someday (You’ll Come Running) / Killed By Love / Metropolis / Over You / The Dream That Died / Does It Feel Like Love / Closer To Heaven / Bad Luck / Tough It Out / That Girl / Other Side Of Midnight / Story Of My Life / Burning My Heart Down / The Boys Are Back In Town.