Club Riga, Southend
17 July 1999
Review courtesy of Terry Willson
The thought of seeing Man again in my home town, did feel me with a certain amount of awe, arriving in Southend at about 3ish. We collected the younger brother of my travelling companion (I say younger as the last time Man were in town he was seven - now thirty) and had a leisurely trek around town and a fairly dreadful curry. On arrival at the pub it looked as if nothing had changed from the old days, so we went to the main bar and as I purchased ale I sent the two brothers on a mission to find the venue - not really that difficult as we had walked passed the door as we entered the pub. Pint's finished we headed into the arena. Club Riga is a smallish venue which when packed could probably hold about two hundred people, and I must admit I was a little disappointed that for a town where so many bands had visited in the past, the crowd was small (see later)
On stage were Roger Hodless and his crew (communally known as Rostock). I have seen these guys before and I must admit the sound was letting them down which was worrying. However to be fair I only saw a couple of numbers and at the time was renewing long lost acquaintances so I shall not make comment, though in view of the Man connection I may do a review at a later time. After they had finished, I had to pay a small visit, and on returning to the main hall I was pleasantly surprised to see the crowd had grown to about 70 -75 and still increasing, and in the venue there was a buzz about (then perhaps that was the ale - or the bad curry)
So on to the stage strolled the Welsh Minstrels and we were into the gig proper. The set was much the same as they had played at Chesham. Ride and the View opened and in view of the fact this was the first gig for 10 weeks it was on song. The sound, which had been not brilliant for Rostock certainly improved when Man were on stage (oh the joy of being a support band), apart from some distortion from the left hand side of the PA. Next was C'mon, and Mickey was starting to open up as Deke took his traditional back seat during the "slow bit", Mickey's guitar picking really cut through with style and a certain amount of angst which really is the essence of this track. Next - Mr. Leonard please take the piano - and we have Manillo, which just gets better and better, then Hard Way to Die followed, always fun.
Next up a treat, for me, Brother Arnold's Red and White Stripped Tent. I have always liked the 2oz's album and the inclusion of this song in the set is a real joy and while I was gob smacked at TWC4 and disappointed at Chesham, tonight Deke was driving this through excellently, by now they really seeming to be enjoying themselves. So were the crowd who were greeting every song with a very good round of appreciation. This was followed by what I consider to be the weakness of the current live show, Wings of Mercury. Don't get me wrong, I love the song and think it is a highlight of the Twang Album, but I have never thought it worked well live, though at this point they could have played "I do like to be beside the seaside" and probably got the biggest cheer of the night. Which was left for 7171551, by now they were on fire, the guitar interplay was so natural, and the Ace/Richards rhythm section was driving this along wonderfully, it was back to the quality of the Maximum Darkness version. This was followed by a blistering version of Daughter Of The Fireplace then the traditional closer Many Are Called but few get up.
Now I am a follower of the "isn't time that Many Are Called was put to bed or to encore status and something else put in" school (Driving Around for example) but I would not have missed this version for the world, the inclusion of the Storm in the middle was something I know they have done and I have seen before but I have never seen it just fit in so naturally. Also how can you tell a good gig, it's when Martin does that something unusual, you've seen it, attempt to balance his guitar on his nose etc. so he decided to forsake the bass and do a "Phil Ryan" for the end of the song - Ace the keyboard doesn't quite have the same ring as Ace the Bass. Then it was all over - or was it?
After the end of the set there was a delay before the encore (perhaps they had been to the same curry house) but what an encore. Spunk Rock in all it's Greasy Truckers glory. It rocked, it cooked and the band were playing like they had only recorded it yesterday - by now they could definitely do no wrong. Then that was it, time to stop play, no Fruit, despite calls from the audience (there was also a shout for Hard Way To Live but I couldn't track the source), no Romain for that matter, in fact no more - it was all over.
So overall - a brilliant gig with the guys really back on song after the disappointment of Chesham. Bob the drummer just gets better and better, not that there's any doubting his talent, but he has really settled in and for me he is the Man drummer now. His musical interaction with the rest of the band, especially Martin is really starting to pay dividends, with a really tight solid rhythm section taking hold. Deke and Mickey are now back to their best with the two guitars complementing each other wonderfully, and Martin, still driving it all along with his "no holds barred" bass lines and tonight Keyboard lines. Tonight proved why I like the minus keyboard, twin guitar line up so much. If Phil is due back, which we all hope, and this was perhaps one of the last of these keyboard less gig's then this was certainly the way to go out.
Disappointments, no material from Call Down The Moon and the bar running out of Ale toward the end of the gig. Surprises - No Banana's (hooray).
All in all It was good to see a probably impartial/casual gig going crowd enjoying the band so much and as a result the band enjoyed the gig and it showed - by the way in case you didn't guess, so did I.
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