If it isn’t a reinvention it is at least a repositioning. Given that Danny Vaughn’s extensive CV includes melodic rock band Tyketto and a stint with Waysted led by UFO axe man Pete Way, his heritage isn’t obviously grist to the AUK mill, nor necessarily are rave notices in Midland Metalheads (due respect of course). But bear with us on this….. the content and style has shifted notably in his impressive recent album ‘Myths, Legends & Lies‘. His other role with The Ultimate Eagles shows his softer side has always been there so it’s no coincidence that the new material calls to mind recent solo work by real Eagle Timothy B Schmidt. It’s like The Eagles but with a bigger belt buckle and more studs on the jacket or, alternatively, the harder end of the Black Crowes repertoire.
With over 35 years of recording and touring already banked, he brings a tide of deep support with him as the audience participation levels soar on the more anthemic songs. The venue, possibly having its debut mention in AUK reviews, is barely a triple jump from London’s Camden Town station and tonight some 150 fans make it close to capacity. It’s maybe not the edgiest adjective for a rock musician but throughout the set and in a brief post gig chat Vaughn comes over as very affable. As the first artist to go public about losing out via the financial collapse of Pledge Music, his new output hasn’t had an easy route to market, but he has persevered and emphasises that the new departure gives a great focus to his inherent love of and fascination for narratives down the ages.
Playing for well over 90 minutes after a fairly tight journey from Heathrow airport, he is certainly generous and his impassioned musical and lyrical approach belies the travel rigours. Opening song, an acoustic belting rock ballad with a compelling extended instrumental intro, ‘Walk on Fire‘ sets the tone. ‘Black Crow’ is a lyrically modern take on transatlantic folk rock with wells, pennies, collection plates and ditches rooting the song in a previous century. ‘Badlands Rain’ is a powerful song about the huge rates of alcoholism in the Dakotan Native American reservation he knows from past life. ‘Shadow of King John’, the lead single from the new album, also impresses. It’s based on his years in Limerick, testifying to the major Irish economic boom of the early 2000s (when Vaughn lived there) and then the mighty fall. It’s perhaps unusual to hear an American having a go at an explicitly Irish theme but with his first-hand experience it convinces nonetheless. Another lyrical standout is ‘Point The Way’, an engaging rambling narrative, starting off in Kazakhstan, with the words half sung/half spoken. ‘Seven Bells’ is a finely crafted folk rock tale, with a big stirring chorus, based on the plight of an old sailing town.
Old standards from his previous incarnations include ‘Battle Lines’, ‘Miracle Days’ and ‘Standing Alone’, the latter in particular the one that brought Vaughn to wider attention. There is a recurring theme of independence, self-determination and taking key decisions at important defining stages of life. The set closed with a crowd-participation rendition of ‘Forever Young’, the single cover amidst a hefty 18 song set list.