Whenever you hear that Pat McManus is playing, it is safe to say that an instantaneous excitement forms in the air. It doesn’t matter where you are or what you are doing, that come hell or high water you will be in attendance for ‘The Professor’ for an education and a night worth remembering. Pat McManus is widely respected member of Irish Rock royalty with a back catalogue and pedigree that places him in the upper echelon of musical performers. Due to this, Pat manages to consistently bring in a crowd of dedicated attendees who are interested in the musical experience and not for a chat out in the smoking area.
I arrived to the venue early and took the time to speak to some of the people who were already in attendance. Although some of them were locals, there was a group of people who travelled from Bangor (that’s the one in County Down, not north Wales – Editor), with one person proudly stating he had already seen Pat and his band five times this year alone. As I mentioned earlier, there is respect and dedication involved when Pat McManus and his band are playing.
Before Pat McManus and his band take the stage, the crowd in attendance are to be treated to a performance from local musician Conor Philips. An unassuming Conor takes the stage, introduces himself and kicks of the night’s proceedings. The raw emotion and talent was on full display as he stood with his acoustic guitar in hand and defiantly sang from his soul. A particular delight of his set was his superb cover of ‘Wicked Game’, which was originally performed by Chris Issac: he managed to make the song his own and accentuate the emotional overtones present in the original. It is also important to mention that his cover of ‘All Along the Watchtower’ and his own material, especially ‘Wake Up’ were also outstanding.
The air in Charlie’s Bar does not stay quiet for long as Pat McManus and his band quickly make their way to the stage and kick of their set with an incredibly soulful rendition of ‘Last Thing at Night’. As soon as the first note is played, the already potent atmosphere in the bar becomes electrically charged. The crowd instantly become unhinged as they prepare themselves for a night to truly remember.
The band performs a number of songs from their latest album ‘Blues Train to Irish Town’ such as ‘Absent Friends’, ‘Rise Up’ and ‘Stepping Stone’. It is impressive to see how the new material gels extremely well with existing material which really shows the consistency, talent and song writing ability of Pat McManus and his band.
Throughout the set, Marty McDermott and Paul Faloon (pictured right) form a solid foundation for Pat’s blues rock based guitar riffs, solos and singing; their playing throughout the set was sublime and seemed effortless to them. Although some people might react negatively on Pat’s style of singing, I tell the naysayers to listen with open ears as his vocals complement the material that is being performed.
Pat has often spoken about the influence that Rory Gallagher has played on his life, which is none more evident than the inclusion of ‘Return Of The G Man’ and ‘What’s Going On’ in the set. Both of these songs go down extremely well with the crowd, which by this point has been brought to a fever pitch. The performance of ‘…The G Man’ was a fine example of the tasteful and refined virtuosic ability that Pat has.
Although he is over twenty years removed from his time in Mama’s Boys, it is always a treat to watch Pat perform songs from their catalogue. The performance of ‘Runaway Dreams’ with its fiddle solo was impressive as always, while ‘Gentlemen Rogues’ and ‘Belfast City Blues’ have lost none of their power and impact over the years. The band concluded with ‘Needle in the Groove’ which provided an excellent conclusion to their set.
An encore was never going to be far away which consisted of a number of classic rock covers such as ‘La Grange’, ‘Mama Weer All Crazzee Now’ and ‘Free Bird’. The crowd at this point has pushed themselves as close as they can get to the stage and are truly enjoying the experience. Throughout the night, there was never a smile far away from Pat’s face. It is inspiring to see that he is still enjoying himself after all these years and all that he has accomplished in his career.
In conclusion, the night was an impressive display of musical talent that was received extremely well by those in attendance. Conor Philips might be young, but he possesses the talent to break out of the local music scene and make an impact further afield. Pat McManus and his band are always a treat to watch live as they inject equal parts fun, talent and raw emotion into their performance. I patiently wait for Pat and his band to return to Charlie’s Bar and I hope that it is sooner rather than later.
Review and photographs by Jason Gallagher.
The Pat McManus Band are currently touring the UK, with the remaining dates as follows:
Thursday 12 November – Bristol, Tunnels
Friday 13 November – Leamington Spa, St Patrick’s Irish Club
Tuesday 17 November – Putney, Half Moon
Wednesday 18 November – Manchester, Rebellion
Thursday 19 November – Bathgate, Dreadnought
Saturday 21 November – Belfast, Voodoo