|Pat McManus Band with Mark Stanway - Belfast, Spring and Airbrake - 20th April 2012|
|Written by Mark Ashby|
|Thursday, 03 May 2012 05:01|
We've said it before and no doubt we will say it again, but Pat McManus' 'hometown' gigs in Belfast are always something a bit special, and tonight, his fourth headliner at this particular venue in around a year, most definitely was no exception, especially as this time he had brought along old friend and Magnum stalwart Mark Stanway.
McManus just loves playing live and this is reflected in the way he merely saunters on stage and picks up his guitar, as if he's just going through a last-minute tuning exercise, but after a quick nod to the DJ and he's off, blasting out a quick fire warm-up routine while the rest of the band join him and then it's into the thunderous riff of opener 'Danger Zone'... and it's not long before he's soloing like only he can, complete with his trademark cheeky smile and knowing winks to long-time friends in the front row.
After solving 'The Riddle', Pat proves he's most definitely 'Ready To Rock' (the third track played from his current album, 'Walking Through Shadows'), which starts off with a slow swing but quickly becomes a launch pad for blistering solo after blistering solo: he's on absolutely stunning form tonight, proving once again that, in this humble Über scribe's opinion, he is the greatest living guitar player in the British Isles, bar none.
With the rhythm section of long-time drummer Paul Faloon and new recruit Marty McDermott on bass doing their job more than competently, Pat introduces his recently written tribute to the late, great Gary Moore: 'Belfast Boy' builds from a beautiful, poignant intro into a full blast Celtic rocker, filled with both lyrical and stylistic references to its subject and proving that McManus is the only guitarist who can come anywhere close to Moore's style, something which is more than ably demonstrated a little later in the set, when McManus absolutely nails an awesome version of 'Parisienne Walkways'. In between, he takes us back to 1985 - "I know it's a long way back but I'll do my best to remember it", as he introduces 'The Professor' from the Mama's Boys album of that year, 'Power And Passion', and the track proves that it has lost none of either in the intervening years, as McManus has the room dancing with a rollicking Irish jig played on a Les Paul.
Following that aforementioned amazing version of 'Parisienne Walkways', Pat's second guest of the night is introduced - Harv Harbinson, frontman with Belfast metal heroes Stormzone: more used to using the upper range of his voice for his band's heady brew of classy power metal, Harv drops down to the bluesier end of the scale for rousing versions of two criminally over-looked Mama's Boys tracks - 'Hot Blood' and 'Bedroom Eyes' - delivering both with suitable aplomb, before the main set finishes with the always crowd-pleasing 'Needle In The Groove'.
Of course, the man doesn't get away that easily, and Harv once again steps up to the microphone for a laid-back saunter through Skynyrd's 'Call Me The Breeze' and the rousing gang finale of 'Mama Weer All Crazee Now', with the band joined by the singers from the night's two support bands - Jenny from Ajenda (who upstages Harv - something that's almost impossible to do - by grabbing the mic from him) and Stevie K of SKB.
It's another brilliant night from the man who rightfully retains the moniker of 'The Professor': a consummate guitarist, who is equally at home playing genteel blues and blistering rock with style and passion, a man who lives to play music, especially on stage, and one who, as befitting his nickname, could teach more than a few lessons to many lesser guitarists, most of whom (naming no names) don't have half his talent or wouldn't even deserve to carry his guitar cases...
I'm already salivating at the prospect of doing it all over again in the not too distant future!