Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne
14 August 2011
Paul Jones – lead vocal, harmonica, percussion
Mike Hugg – keyboards
Tom McGuiness – guitars, vocals
Rob Townsend – drums
Marcus Cliffe – 5-string bass guitar, backing vocals
Simon Currie- saxophones, clarinet, flute, percussion
Back At The Chicken Shack (Jimmy Smith)
Sha La La (with singalong)
I’m Your Kingpin (B-side)
Just Like A Woman
Sweet Temptation (Tom McGuinness, lead vocal)
Oh, No, Not My Baby
Señor Blues (Horace Silver)
Choose or Cop Out
Without You (B-side of 5-4-3-2-1)
Put It Where You Want It (The Crusaders)
My Girl (The Temptations)
Watermelon Man / I’ve Been A Bad Bad Boy / Watermelon Man
Mike Hugg solo
When I’m Dead & Gone (Tom McGuinness, lead vocal)
The Mighty Quinn (with singalong)
Do Wah Diddy Diddy (with singalong)
5-4-3-2-1 / Hey Bo Diddley / 5-4-3-2-1
The Manfreds gained their sidestep name fortuitously. They can’t call themselves Manfred Mann (without Mr Mann), but the hook line of 5-4-3-2-1, the hit that opened Ready, Steady Go every Friday from 1963 to 1966, is Uh, huh, it was The Manfreds! In a month of watching 60s bands (The Searchers, The Animals & Friends), The Manfreds have the highest number of original members. OK, Tom McGuinness joined after the first couple of recordings, but was present for all the hits (and shifted from bass to guitar), and Mike Hugg has shifted from drums to keyboards, but Paul Jones is still singing and blowing harmonica. Like both the other 60s bands, the Manfred Mann trademark was excellent cover versions. They thought of themselves as a blues band, but success came with girl group soul (The Exciters’ Do Wah Diddy Diddy, Maxine Brown’s Oh, Not, Not My Baby!) and Dylan covers (With God On Our Side on an EP, If You Gotta Go Go Now, and later Just Like A Woman and The Mighty Quinn). Tom McGuiness went on to Coulson, Dean, McGuiness, Flint whose Lo and Behold album is stuffed with first-rate Basement Tapes covers.
I can’t think of another band that ran a series of hits with a signature-voice charismatic singer (Jones), lost him, replaced him (d’Abo). and continued seamlessly on with more hits. Once Manfred Mann started afresh in the 70s, as Manfred Mann’s Chapter Three, there was a retroactive naming of the earlier bands as chapter one (Jones and the HMV label) and chapter two (d’Abo and the Fontana label). Last time I saw them in 2003, both Jones and d’Abo were present. So were P.P. Arnold, Alan Price and Colin Blunstone. It was a larger scale tour at a bigger venue. The Tivoli is a popular venue with bands, and this was the first date of their autumn 2011 tour. A few weeks later, Dave Kelly and Gary Fletcher join, and The Manfreds (Jones, McGuinness, Townsend) become The Blues Band at the same venue. And Dave Kelly was due there with Christine Collister the day afterwards. And not long before that with Maggie Bell.
On to subjectivity. I’ve seen Manfred Mann before. My 2003 review tells the tale of how we got to see them at Beverly Road Baths, Hull in 1967 without paying. I recently discussed that gig with someone who was there, and it’s a gig which glows golden in my memory. It was news to me that it was a dire evening (not long after Mike d’Abo replaced Paul Jones) and that the band were so disgusted with their own performance that they refunded £75 of their fee. This was the first and last time a band did this voluntarily. To me, they were absolute magic. But it was at that gig, or rather “dance” as they were then called, that I met my girlfriend of the next four years. So the whole evening glows in my memory. Objectivity doesn’t come into it (but I have a guilty feeling that I owe Messrs McGuinness and Hugg a tenner each to compensate for that £75.) More on subjectivity: I walked in depressed and miserable and came out with a huge smile.
With age, most things deteriorate. Not The Manfreds. They were definitely better than they were eight years ago. I hope that’s objective. Paul Jones has a Dorian Gray mirror somewhere telling the truth, but reality shows little ageing over eight years, and not that much over forty-seven – the point where I first saw them at the Disques AGoGo in Bournemouth. They have a huge advantage over other 60s survivors in having the original front man. I went assuming their set would be confined to Chapter One, but Paul Jones did two from Chapter Two: Just Like A Woman and The Mighty Quinn. Instantly, you realized the template for Manfred Mann’s version of Just Like A Woman, sung by d’Abo, was present in If You Gotta Go, Go Now (which Jones sang in 1965, but sadly not tonight). It was not quite the best version of Just Like A Woman I’ve seen (that was Van Morrison), but it was way better than Dylan’s been able to manage in the last thirty years. Excellent. The Mighty Quinn was great. I remembered that following their two Dylan-penned hits, Manfred Mann got first shout on the Basement Tapes acetate, and wisely selected Mighty Quinn. I was also reminded that the best album of Dylan covers ever, Lo ‘n’ Behold, by Coulson, Dean, McGuiness, Flint, featured Tom McGuiness. A new CD version was on sale in the foyer.
The set started out with a “take-it-in-turns to solo” warm, but low-key, run through Jimmy Smith’s Back At The Chicken Shack. Van Morrison used to start in a similar way, but his ego demanded the band starting on their own and him entering halfway through. In contrast, Paul Jones bounded on first and smiled. His personality is an important part of the show. In the mid-60s he competed with Jagger as a sex symbol, but always disarmed it with a boyish Just William grin; a grin he retains at 69. When he left Manfred Mann to go solo, a film career beckoned followed by a stage career, and a radio DJ career. It’s left him with powerful audience command, and he does “act a lyric” with a touch of Spanish accent for Señor Blues, and he replicates some of his Top of The Pops poses with a smile, most noticeably in Pretty Flamingo. He holds the stage so strongly, pointing out lighting cues for solos, introducing everything, that the rest of the band remain low key.
The set is well-balanced between big hits and other stuff. Second number is Sha La La, with audience singalong. He goes right to the front and really milks the three singalongs. I’m Your Kingpin is the first of two very early bluesy B-sides. Then Just Like A Woman, which sounds as if it always was him. I had to check afterwards. I know it was a hit after he left, but was it him? According to all the books it was Mike d’Abo, and Mike d’Abo did it when I saw both together in 2003. This was a good point to establish that this band were not rolling out facsimile versions of hits. Far from it. The permanent addition of Simon Currie on saxes changes the balance. Mike Hugg remained resolutely on an electric piano setting at places where the original Mr Mann played organ. It was also clear that they had no intention of rolling out facsimiles either. In this way they separate from the run of “60s Revived” bands and perform as a band that has evolved.
Tom McGuinness stepped up for his own Sweet Temptation, followed by Driver Man, from the 1966 As Was EP. It left me wishing for Ike & Tina Turner’s I Can’t Believe What You Say from the same record, but that would have been too much to hope for. Paul Jones did a long intro on Maxine Brown’s Oh, No, Not My Baby before explaining that they were going to do it differently. It was a very jazzy treatment. I wish Mike Hugg had brought along his vibes though. The Horace Silver tune Señor Blues crops up all over the place, most notably by Taj Mahal,and this was a good version, which is on their current road CD. He pointed out that the red sticker said Harmonica Player of the Year 2010, and was out of date. Since last Sunday it should read Harmonica Player of The Year 2011. But that’s going to be true in any year. Jones’ harmonica is not a squawky filler. He plays cleanly and melodically, and it becomes part of the horn section, duetting with Currie’s saxophones, clarinet and flute. Few harp players do that. Few harp players can do that. He plays more of the time than any harp player I’ve seen too. The harmonica is a major part of the band.
Current tour CD: Let ’em Roll
We had one of the strongest merchandise pitches I’ve seen at this point, enlivened by humour. Paul Jones went through the souvenir programme and pitched the CDs and DVD on sale. As an aside, I bought two, but business was not booming, which always seems the case in Wimborne however popular the band. The Manfreds / Paul Jones CDs were £13. The Tom McGuinness were £10. I think Tom has it right for a live gig where you expect a round number and a discount, because the retailer share is eliminated. I heard a couple examine the Paul Jones solo CD Starting All Over Again, and say ‘Let’s check on amazon.’ (I just did … £10.97 and amazon are taking a bigger chunk of that than £2.03). At a straight tenner, you don’t check. On the other hand, the current tour CD (above) wasn’t on amazon at all.
Anyway, having pitched his album, he explained that Eric Clapton played on it, and reminded us that Eric Clapton and Tom McGuinness were in a band called The Roosters together. They did Choose Out or Cop Out (from the album) with a fluid and melodic solo from McGuinness (who played brilliantly all evening).
Then McGuiness swopped his Strat for acoustic guitar and the first half closed with Pretty Flamingo. In the many hours I’ve wasted compiling Desert Island Top Tens, this has often featured. Exactly an hour in, and time for the interval.
The second half had bookends, both from the same iconic 1964 single. It started with the B-side, Without You, this early composition described by Jones as “juvenalia”. There was a lyric shift to praising the Lord in the last verse. The second number was The Crusaders Put It Where You Want It, at the end of which he namechecked The Crusaders instead of the band. Marcus Cliffe’s metallic solo on 5-string bass was the highlight. Interesting. Driving out to Wimborne I’d been listening to their singles collection. The very first single Why Should We Not / Brother Jack, way back in 1963, had very much the same feel. My Girl followed. My Girl is one of those songs where you can waste happy hours comparing versions. The Temptations or Otis Redding? This was squarely in The Temptations camp, which is usually where I end up. (Otis wins the Respect comparison against Aretha though).
The One In The Middle: three left out of five ain’t bad!
Manfred Mann were known for their Eps (seven on HMV between 1963 and 1966), and we’d already had Driver Man. The next visit was The One In The Middle which featured With God On Our Side and a vocal version of Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man. I was delighted that they chose Watermelon Man tonight. It was done as a medley with Paul Jones’ solo hit, I’ve Been A Bad Bad Boy. That’s a song I never liked much, and it doesn’t grow on me either, so I was pleased when it returned to Watermelon Man.
Mike Hugg’s solo piece followed (I don’t know the title), then Come Tomorrow, which was always an uncharacteristic big ballad in standards style. Then we were on Tom McGuinness for When I’m Dead and Gone, a #2 hit in its time. The closing sequence threw two big ones together. The Mighty Quinn sounded fine with Jones on vocal and was a big singalong. Do Wah Diddy Diddy was an even bigger and more elaborate singalong routine. Inevitable at this point in a show. The encore, neatly bookending the set, was 5-4-3-2-1, which became Bo Diddley, then Bo Diddley mixed with 5-4-3-2-1. Hey Bo Diddley! became Hey! Tivoli! which wouldn’t work with the Royal Albert Hall. I expect they know that.