The Leopard - Doncaster

Friday 8 October 2004

It's five months since I last saw the Man band at Hebden Bridge, a gig which was less than great. Since then, reports have suggested a marked improvement. There was even talk of set changes, so there must also have been some rehearsals. Wow.

The Leopard was a new venue to me. A pub just a couple of minutes walk from Doncaster station, it's seemed like a basic boozer. The bands play in a dedicated room upstairs, square, dark and fairly small, the bar at one side and a tiny stage well set back; this means that Gareth's keyboards were at the rear of the stage, rather than the side, and furthermore, there was no space for his Hammond. And to see the entire band, you needed to be dead centre in the room, as the PA obstructed the view from either side.

C'mon has been promoted to opener again, and I still think it's the best place for it. It gives the band chance to settle in and loosen up. It very much remains Micky's piece, though George's playing has a noticably harder edge than Deke's. Visionaries was up next, which incuded an odd sounding Micky solo, which somehow just seemed to be out of place. Another Ace vocal, Mad on Her followed, featuring a prominent George Jones solo; I might be wrong, but I do think George really likes this song.

I've always thought Hangin' On sounds out of place in a Man live set - somehow just a little too lightweight. Anyway, it was becoming clear this is very much a Micky Jones night, with plenty of fluid soloing here, including the one towards the end which Deke would normally have taken. Oh, and while it's not up to the mark of a broken string, it should be recorded that Ace's bass strap came adrift.

Heaven and Hell was the first major set change. Something of a surprise in fact, since although recorded nearly ten years ago, it hadn't been played live prior to this tour. It sounds good. As you'd expect, it's pretty loose, and I thought the best part was the middle instrumental section.

Popemobile and Wings are more familiar live pieces and procede as expected, though Micky's SG on the latter was very crisp, but too high up in the mix. Drivin' Around was the other main set change, though this was a return rather than a new appearence. Micky's solo was probably the best of the night, and the whole piece was very rewarding, despite the general confusion about when and how to get out of the instrumental section.

They finished with Romaine and Many; Romaine just sounds weird without Deke's vocals, and Many included George's best, noodling solo of the night.

They came back and gave us Bananas for an encore, which I thought a bit routine; but having already seen two significant set changes, maybe I'm quibbling. Still, it's a shame they couldn't find room for a song featuring a vocal from George.

Overall, it was an OK performance. I think the crowd has something to do with this. There weren't too many of us, yet I've seen the band go down a storm in front of smaller audiences, but there seemed a general half heartedness or lack of enthusiasm amnongst those attending. The sound was uneven and varied depending on where you were standing, and Martin frequently complained about the humming in his monitor. Plus, it was a new venue to the band. Maybe this all contributed.

They can do better. I'm sure they will.

There are pics from this gig in the Gallery.

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