The Kite Club at The Station - Blackpool

Friday 9 February 2001

Blackpool Tower, Friday afternoonAs far as I can remember, the last time I was in Blackpool it was to see the Man band back in 1993 at the Raikes Hall. An absolute stormer, that one. Anyway, Blackpool in February is generally cold, dull, wet and windy. So when we got there on this particular Friday afternoon, it was a welcome surprise to be greeted by a beautiful clear blue sky and scarcely a sea breeze. It was still fairly chilly, but an afternoon stroll down the uncrowded promenade was a fine way to pass a couple of hours. It certainly beats working anyway; and hotel accommodation in Blackpool in February is both cheap and plentiful, so there were no worries about who was to drive home.

The Kite Club is downstairs at The Station pub, just five minutes walk from the Central Pier. As is depressingly frequently the case, choice of beers was lamentable, and prices were steep. The low stage at the side has a large mirror behind it, which gives the surreal impression of two bands playing back to back; the PA was respectable and sound quality all night was good. Numbers were low early on, but by the time the band came on stage a very healthily sized audience was ready for the off. Ride started proceedings, with excellent earthy Hammond from Gareth (who was actually just offstage to the left), and Micky Jones, sometimes a slow starter, was superb from the first note; and not for the last time on the night, there was a hint of fresh sections to the material, here being interplay between Micky and Martin.

The Man BandIf ever a town and an MC were made for each other, it would be Blackpool and Ace. "The home of variety" he called it, and went on to say he was looking forward to plenty of "sexual innuendo". Bruce Forsyth, eat your heart out. Hangin' On was more forceful here than on the album version, and though at times the guitars and keyboards sounded to be less than perfectly in tune with each other, Micky's twangy, understated solo was excellent.

Deke LeonardThere was a real swing to Love Isn't Love, and the song was marred only by minor techinical problems with Deke's guitar; this segued into C'mon with some gorgeous spine tingling guitar and synth interplay from Micky and Gareth, a true set highlight; again, there was some inventive messing around, this time with the vocals. Do It has been in the set for quite a few years now, and has again been tweaked so the main riff comes from Micky's guitar rather than the synth, and the middle section was longer and heavier, with some good choppy keyboards.

Bob, Micky and MartinPopemobile was straight forward and pulled no punches; I still think it sounds a bit pedestrian on the album, but performed live is a more convincing song, and received a rapturous reception. Many Are Called saw Micky switch to SG, and the guitar sound was ringing rather early on, but soon settled down to be as crisp and precise as ever. During the seagulls section, I wouldn't be surprised if Blackpool's avian wildlife were left wondering who had invaded their territory.

The band, dancing girls and a disreputable rogueThere were even some unfamilar guitar parts during Bananas, the encore, which featured a great synth workout from Gareth. By this time, a number of girls could contain themselves no longer, and started dancing right in front of the stage, and Martin certainly appreciated having something different to watch. Bob Richards' playing is so good, it is getting to the point where you barely notice him - so all I will say is he was brilliant all night, and ended Bananas with a short solo full of sheer aggression.

Romain ended things, the audience went apeshit and were very disappointed when no further encores were forthcoming. I suspect this is because the venue generally opens the doors at 11:00 for dancing, as quite a few were on the dancefloor afterwards who were not at the gig; but anyway, the band may not have minded too much as they were driving straight back to South Wales through the early Saturday morning.

Next day, Blackpool was back on February form, with rain, grey skies and biting winds coming off the Irish Sea. The hotel must have been having some sort of Valentines weekend, because I certainly didn't order that glass of champagne at breakfast, but following one of the Man band's better live performances, there was good reason to celebrate.

There are pics from this gig in the Gallery.

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