Pat McManus @ Rebellion Bar, Manchester
Pat McManus is one of those people who seems to be perpetually on tour with a dedicated band of followers wanting to immerse themselves in his Irish blues. From a personal perspective the last time I saw this man play live was with Mama’s Boys 30+ years ago supporting Thin Lizzy … far too long ago to think about it. And it is a sparse crowd here at the venue, possibly less than 100 have made it out on this blustery evening with Barney still blowing a big one outside and folk possibly reflecting on the events in Paris less than a week earlier.
McManus and his band hit the ground running with a Mama’s Boys tune, Last Thing At Night followed by new song Absent Friends which has a distinctly Thin Lizzy feel and What’s Goin On, a straight ahead rocker pointing towards Rory Gallagher.
From seemingly simple blues solos to complex fret board tapping McManus’s playing is a joy to watch as his fingers fly around the necks of his guitars, ably supported by his equally solid rhythm section of Marty McDermott on bass and Paul Faloon on drums. The set includes a good selection of songs from his new album Blues Train To Irish Town released three weeks ago including the wonderful slow blues of Torn In Two in which McManus crafts a beautifully understated guitar solo. Playing Parisienne Walkways is always going to be a poignant and sombre affair considering, but tonight the emotion and sorrow that drips from his guitar is palpable.
An official tea break for the rest of the band whilst McManus takes a nod to Rory Gallagher with an acoustic Return Of The G Man complete with audience participation as the song segues into Rory’s Out On The Western Plains. The band returns and a further nod is made to Gary Moore with Belfast Boy referred to humourously as from the previous new album which was still the new album until three weeks ago, Irish logic. Interestingly, segued between the two he performs The Messiah Will Come Again possibly referring to both these sadly departed guitarists.
Having earlier played Mama’s Boys Straight Forward he delves into their history once more for the last song of the set, and probably the ‘Boys best known song, Needle In The Groove which for me is a 80’s nostalgia fest, and one of my favourite songs from that time.
This is a high quality rock workout, a performance steeped in Irish rock musical history (that thankfully bypassed U2) which once again proves that Pat McManus’s name should be up there with the best of the musical Craic. If nothing else, he certainly deserves your recognition and support.