The Kite Club at The Station - Blackpool

Friday 1 March 2002

Blackpool Tower. Not much changed from last year.It's quite remarkable, but I saw the Man band last year in this same venue, same town, just some 54 weeks ago. So again it was in a dismal winter, cold and wet. And again, the day of the gig in Blackpool was utterly glorious. Check the pic from last year's review, I swear they were not taken on the same day. If nothing else this band guarantees good weather on the Fylde coast.

from The Guardian gig guideThis clipping was taken from The Guardian's weekly gig guide. That paper's tradition for accuracy lives on. The rest of us were unsure what to expect - would the long promised new releases lead to a revamped set? Would the final, promised appearance of Undrugged mean we would see the band playing accoustics, double basses and washboards?

No, of course it wouldn't. How much space for equipment do you think there is in a van?

Behind the taxi is a Man poster in the window. Honest.The venue of course was much the same as last year, downstairs under the main pub. Those waiting on the steps prior to the doors opening were treated to a preview by way of the soundcheck - I Always Thought the Walrus was Protected. The range of drinks at the bar was as disappointing as last year, (luckily we found the Wheatsheaf earlier in the day, both beer and food wonderful) and the crowd, encouragingly, was similar too. So there was a healthy welcome when the band appeared on stage - four of them anyway, as Martin Ace had one last personal matter to take care of, so the quartet played around a little for a minute or so. Once back to the full complement of five, Gareth's synth started off Conflict of Interest, which these days has the main riff taken by Micky's guitar. The sound was not the greatest, and it was still not quite right for Hangin' On, so at this point adjustments were made to Micky's amp.

Jones, Ace & LeonardThere was a slight improvement, but over the course of the night, the sound never really was as good as you would have liked; though it did continue to improve as the night went on. And, on more than one occasion there were requests to have the monitor adjusted, but that was never sorted either. Love Isn't Love, as has become its habit, merged into C'mon, and again Gareth's spacey keyboards were especially effective, despite being again pushed off to the left of the stage. It's been said before that this song can be a launching pad for new ideas, and this time around it included a solo from MJ which I hadn't heard before, this one fairly minimalist, but very good all the same. Of all the older songs in the set, this one is doing the best job of justifying its inclusion.

Bob RichardsAt this point the one surprise of the night was sprung. Over the past decade or so when I've seen the Man band, Spunk Rock hasn't been played all that often, and then only as an encore, so it was disorienting to hear it played in the middle of the set. It was certainly very welcome though, and it's highlights for me were Gareth's synth solo, and Deke's guitar playing, which was top notch. It will be interesting to see of this keeps its place mid set. There now came a minor delay, probably a consequence of this being the opening date of the tour: the band weren't sure what to do next. After a short discussion, Ride and the View was rolled out, and very good it was too, Gareth's Hammond adding something extra to the mix.

Martin had his only solo vocal of the night with Popemobile, which I still don't think is one of his best songs, though I enjoyed his thoughts on Buddy Holly and Des O'Connor. The closer of the main set remains Many Are Called, on this night started by Deke before Micky had finished tuning up his SG, and amid the usual seagulls, I thought I detected a new guitar part from Deke.

Goodnight!The encores were predictably Bananas, with another good synth solo, and Romain, with Gareth continuing to excel on the organ; Micky had some guitar problems, but once he got going he again produced a few unfamiliar lines.

Overall, a good gig, though not up to the sublime standard of last year, though that is hardly a fair criticism. You can't have dancing girls every time, even on St.David's Day. Set variation was minimal, but as usual there was the odd tweak to look out for. The playing was excellent, with Deke and Gareth worthy of special mention. Bob Richards was Bob Richards, and Martin Ace's stand up spot was about policeman's balls. I'll not reveal the punchline, but should he need an alibi I'd be happy to oblige.

Here's hoping for another Blackpool gig next year. Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside...

There are pics from this gig in the Gallery.

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