Pat McManus Band
Tuesday 14th March 2023
The Beaverwood, Chislehurst, Kent
"Did you catch Pat McManus in the Blues tent? What a gem! To my shame I have never heard this man play before yesterday. As the man said "I was born between Rory Gallagher and Gary Moore... so I was ****ed!" Wasted at the early performance, could have closed the main stage in my opinion."
That compliment was made in response to our review of Maidstone's Ramblin' Man Fair, on a beautiful Summer's weekend, way back in July 2016, and to my eternal shame, despite that glowing praise for the former Mama’s Boys and Celtus guitarist/violinist virtuoso, tonight, back in the Garden of England, was the first time I had ever seen 'The Professor' live!
With St. Patrick's Day on the horizon, the beautiful Beaverwood marquee in Chislehurst, was festooned with the Irish tricolour, not only for singer and songwriter McManus, who in recent years has been named as one of the top five top Irish guitarists of all time, but also for 2016 Wrinklystock legends Limehouse Lizzy, who were also playing to this popular, sold out Kent venue, two nights later. Indeed, we were promised an evening packed full of the Power trio's special brand of Blues Rock, infused with a touch of the Celtic, with old favourites and new. And that's exactly what we got, with a touch Moore ....
Unlike Lizzy, tonight was not sold out, but it was still a good turn out given two Emerald gigs in three days, although the schhh from a wag in the audience for you know who, as they quietly made their way on to the stage for the first of two sets, was dismissed by McManus. "You won't be schhhing by the time we've finished!", and just to prove the point to any doubters, they unleashed the driving boogie AC/DC riff of 'Ready To Rock' from 2011's 'Walking Through Shadows'. Then the Wishbone Ash sounding intro of 'Absent Friends' from 2015's Blues Train To Irish Town' gave way to that familiar Lizzy vibe, before 'Jumpstart My Heart' from 2020's 'Full Service Resumed', took us more in a Hendrix direction.
Smartly attired in a black and white checked shirt, black waistcoat, Tom Petty like shades plus long silver locks, McManus looked every inch a Rock star as he moved around the stage, but much more importantly has the personality to match, smiling, enjoying and making the most of every note, such as his take on Robert Johnson's classic, 'Crossroads'. Next up was his 2007 'In My Own Time' classic, 'Got The Right', that was followed by the slower, Gary Moore influenced, 'Stepping Stone', another from 'BTTIT'.
With a Red House just around the corner in Bexleyheath, perhaps another joker in the audience didn't need to remind Pat that he was in Chislehurst, although not only did McManus dispatch Jimi's classic with aplomb, but he also took out time to deservedly introduce his dynamic engine room - the engaging Paul Faloon on drums plus "the iceman", Plunkett McComb on bass and backing vocals, of whom, McManus explained, had finally persuaded him to come out on the road.
Pat then admitted he was a bit concerned about the next two songs as they hadn't played them in their set for ages. Being a little bit Irish, McManus needn't have worried as his beautiful guitar tone on 'Stone Cold Sober' from the band's last self-titled album, plus the very apt, 'Back In The Saddle', one of the stand outs from the first half, showcased the venues great sound, with not only Faloon's pounding drumming, but also the introduction of Pat's Jimmy Page-esque bow, that eventually saw McManus crouching down to play a guitar lying on the floor.
Pat's delightful Strat riff tones on 'Gentlemen Rogues' from 2009's 'Live ... and in Time', could have been the bastard child of Thin Lizzy and Montrose (look them up), before McManus demanded that we clapped our hands to another from 'LAIT', 'Runaway Dreams', with its synchronised guitars, a great vocal from Pat plus the introduction of his fiddle for a jig, and then a shuffle, to close out this foot tapping end to a wonderful first set. Was there no end to this man's talents?
After spotting Faloon heading towards trap one of the gents during the intermission (we love these smaller venues don't we), it was time, as McManus put it, "to get started again", as he fittingly dedicated the moving 'His Soul Remains With Me' to the late Jeff Beck. Although, unsurprisingly I suspect it was written for another late great, the one and only Gary Moore, as Pat validated the aforementioned fact that he was brought up equidistant to both Moore and Rory Gallagher. "I didn't have a chance" he joked, although as he held THAT note on Moore's classic 'Parisienne Walkways', not only would have Gary been proud of him, but it also brought a much missed lump to this reviewer's throat.
An upbeat take on another classic, Dylan's 'Blowin' In The Wind', was followed by a similar legend. "Let's hear it for Rory!" McManus shouted. "Still can't hear ya", before Pat relented and treated us, and I mean treated us, to Gallagher's 'What's Going On'. As McManus described it, "a strange little track from my first album", the instrumental 'Juggernaut', resulted in traffic in the aisles, as a couple danced, without going full Riverdance, before the sharp dressed trio covered ZZ Top's classic, which included a snippet of another iconic riff, Quo's 'Caroline'.
It was then literally 'Full Service Resumed' as Pat returned to his own excellent material and second set stand out, 'Honey Trap', followed by 'Live ... and in Time's 'Straight Forward', with their respective Greg Lake and ZZ vibes. However, the poignant 'Belfast Boy' was a joy to behold for obvious reasons, as McManus's V guitar went into overdrive with its beautiful Lizzy/Celtic overtones. "We will miss that Belfast boy." Indeed, Happy St. Patrick's Day Gary.
The band appropriately ended a classic set with a classic Rock song, 'Live ... and in Time's, 'Needle In The Groove', before returning for one final welcome encore (to be honest they hadn't actually left the stage), dedicating it to Gary Rossington, with once again the very modest Irishman joking that he would give it a go on his slide guitar, as they played out with a marvellous cover of 'Freebird'.
Indeed, McManus lived up to his reputation as a true gent, not only during his set, but after the show, chatting and joking with the waiting Beaverwood faithful. Suffice to say that the legacy of Irish guitar legends such as Gallagher and Moore is in very safe hands, as Pat's band testified tonight. Rest assured I will not leave it as long next time to see these guys in action again. Happy St. Patrick's Day.