Danny & Luke – The First 50 Years @Whitley Bay Playhouse, November 1 2021

It’s difficult, bordering on the downright uncomfortable, watching Danny Bowes seated for an entire show.

The contrast between the jack-in the-box, Duracell battery-charged Thunder frontman and his sedate and rather calming alter ego simply couldn’t be starker.

But given time we could get used to Bowes as rock’s version of the CBeebies Bedtime Stories host.

Just about.

You see, it’s not such a giant leap from his day job…

Even at the height of some sweaty set inside a sold-out Thunderdome, one of live music’s greatest raconteurs has always found the time to tell the odd tall tale.

And there’s no doubt he’s got a happy knack for nailing the fireside approach to storytelling alongside childhood friend and lifelong buddy Luke Morley.

Prior to the first night of this brand new tour — Danny and Luke’s first post-pandemic gigs together — Morley had expressed his concern that punters might get bored listening to two old blokes harping on.

Far from it.

Hilarious anecdotes were juxtaposed alongside the odd serious recollection as two national treasures recounted half a century of reassuring highs and occasionally crippling lows.

There was barely a dry eye in the house as Danny recalled the time he pretended to be various members of Take That after a Top Of The Pops appearance.

What started off as a childish prank — involving messaging fans of the boy band and suggesting he was Mark Owen or Robbie Williams — ended with Thunder’s various members bailing out of their tour bus and hiding behind a wall.

There was talk of the ill-fated Terraplane, memorable trips across the Pond and local (to Whitley Bay) hero Andy Taylor.

But enough of the spoilers.

In amongst the hugely entertaining chat there was, of course, a fair quotient of songs with a slew of well-known Thunder favourites and deeper cuts given a shiny acoustic makeover.

Morley has always been a stickler for detail. A man for the minutiae.

And he’d tweaked his trusty six-string to perfection in order to bring out the best in the evening’s nine-strong setlist.

Bookending the book tour/unplugged show with Backstreet Symphony and Love Walked In was the smart, if somewhat predictable, move.

But for fans who’ve followed Bowes and Morley for at least 35 of the last 50 years, the joy was hearing tunes like Serpentine, from Wonder Days, alongside 1992’s Like A Satellite and Amy’s On The Run from The Magnificent Seventh!

Prior to this tour-opening show it was 37 years since Danny and Luke had played one of the North East’s most famous seaside towns.

For some reason that Esplanade (remember that venue?) date stuck in Morley’s mind.

And almost four decades down the line a thoroughly entertaining evening at the Playhouse will live long in the memories of those present.

Bowes might seem like a duck out of water when he’s not waddling across the stage like an adrenaline-fuelled madman.

But he looks right at home curled up in his comfy chair, pontificating about the past. 

A Better Man than the Thunder man we know and love?

Nope. But just as good.

John Evans