Leas Cliff Hall, Folkestone (3/11/17)
Let me tell ‘bout The Manfreds . . . well, the basics are, I guess, that this is a sixties band that have brought together as many original members who still fancy playing the hits as they can and then drafted in some newbies for an attack on the lucrative oldies circuit.
Now whilst that financial assumption might be correct and original hit makers Paul Jones, Mike D’Abo, Tom McGuinness and Mike Hugg are present and correct and bolstered by newbies Marcus Cliffe (bass), Simon Currie (sax / flute) and ex Family player Rob Townsend (drums), it goes a little deeper than that.
In fact, it always did.
The band’s debut album, The Five Faces Of Manfred Mann (Manfred Mann might have been the name of the band and its erstwhile keyboard player but they’ve always been known as The Manfreds) was the first 33rpm I ever bought and what seemed unremarkable then certainly is in hindsight. The pop makers LP included covers of material from jazz icon Cannonball Adderley, an equally jazzy band sourced instrumental and a relatively obscure Ike And Tina Turner cover. And this in the wake of their debut hit 5-4-3-2-1.
This is important as it underpins the approach of the present day Manfreds. The hits are present and correct from the popcorn of Do Wah Diddy and Sha La La to the sublime Pretty Flamingo, the quality pop of Semi Detached Suburban Mr. James, the Dylan covers for which they were noted and the left field My Name Is Jack but not only do they play them well but they play them with freshness and panache.
Nor do they stop at Manfred hits; Tom McGuinness is showcased with his McGuinness Flint hit When I’m Dead And Gone, Mike D’Abo with a fine take on his classic composition Handbags And Gladrags, Mike Hugg - originally the band’s drummer - with a wonderful exploratory almost Keith Jarrett like piano piece and Paul Jones with impressive harmonica and vocal workouts. And of Jones it must be asked as whether, being the blues afficianado he is, he has ever made some Robert Johnson like pact (a meeting at The Blue Boar, perchance) as he looks and acts same as he did way back when!
Now every tour has support acts and this is no different in that P.P Arnold and the great Zoot Money are along for the ride. However, unlike any other tour they don’t come out and do a bit before the headliners but are actually integrated into the show coming out to play with The Manfreds. And time, it must be said has been more than kind to both of these sixties legends who were both in fine voice indeed.
So, whilst a sense of nostalgia might get you to a Manfreds gig, what you’ll see is far from that. It’s a band who have a long, varied and honorable history living and playing most definitely in the present. A hugely recommended night out.