The Torrington - London

Sunday 18 July 1999

DekeI decided not to bother with a camera, since I haven't seen the band for a more than six months, so wanted to concentrate on the performance. Also, I haven't been to the Torrington before, another reason to focus on the matter in hand. But to break up the dull wedge of text, I've included some existing pics which I've modified to add to the psychedelic ambiance. I hope.

The Torrington has often been mentioned in the fanzine as being a Man band venue par excellence, so I was very much looking forward to seeing what all the fuss was about. The front part is a fairly typical (I think) North London pub, with the main section having doors and shutters opening up onto the high street. The slight breeze this produced while waiting for the doors to the auditorium (auditorium?) to open was welcome on what had been a warm day; the drive down the M1 is out of scope for this review, but what the hell caused that 45 minute delay past Luton? Sorry, I'm straying off topic... Behind the bar there was Flowers bitter available, reasonably priced too, but alas was nitrokeg if I'm any judge. Still, could be worse.

Once it was announced the auditorium, no sod it, it's a back room, was open, a few punters wandered in. I always worry at times like this as there seems to be such a pitifully small number of souls, but as ever, come showtime, it was packed. As I had been forewarned on the bulletin board, choice of drink here was more limited, nitrokeg Boddies being the best available. As for the actual venue, I have to say I was expecting something a bit grander; don't get me wrong, I reckon seeing the Man band in a compact, nay intimate venue like this is marvellous, but for some reason I had been expecting something with a bit more, well, size. No matter. A square room, bar along one edge, small stage set into one corner. Apart from the usual tall sods at the front, there was a decent view from all round. I've heard some grumbling at the sound quality - personally I've heard it better, but I've also heard it a damn sight worse.

BobThe stage was not the widest I've seen them on either, but as you'd expect, this was all taken in good heart, at one point eliciting from Martin Ace a few choice words on the art of stagecraft. Ride has been the opener in its shorter form for some time now, and it was clear that the lay off (previous seaside jaunt to Southend excepted) has caused no ill effects; the band were still fluid, yet as tight as ever. From my position in the corner, the sound was fine, though I thought the drums were especially crisp and clear. I still can't get used to C'mon being anything but first up, and as usual there was the odd new flavour in the traditional mix; in this case, part way through there was a bass line that seemed very reminiscent of Deep Purple's Strange Kinda Woman, to me at least.

This point saw Deke squeeze behind his keyboard, (with Martin making unwelcome comments about his accoutrements), for Manillo, and when you think about it, this is the only real slow number in the set at the moment - no less welcome for that. Deke remained seated for Hard Way to Die, one I was very much looking forward to, since I can't recall having seen this performed on stage before. Was I disappointed? Nope. Without the benefit of strings or studio production, it has a very different feel to it. Deke's voice was outstanding, and rather put the backing vocals to shame; it was hugely enjoyable, though my notes suggest it didn't work overall as well as the other older songs which have been reintroduced into the set.

Martin Tent meanwhile still works just fine, and it's always a joy to see Deke take his harp out of his pocket. I got the impression that the band had really got the bit between their teeth now, and were in no mood to let it go. 7171-551 was an absolute stormer, and it's hard to believe this song spent so long out of the set prior to its reintroduction last year. Superbly focussed guitar playing form both the boys, and the tight, precise rhythm section the song requires. As the song ended I concluded that had to be the highlight of the set. Once again, I was wrong. Daughter of the Fireplace is not one of the songs I would have thought of as an obvious candidate for reintroduction to the set; more fool me. The band were simply on fire for this one, roaring through at a frenetic pace, yet never losing control. After this performance, nobody, but nobody can doubt Bob Richards is a worthy successor to Terry Williams, and his partnership with Martin Ace seems unshakable. This song was brilliant. As and when Phil gets back on board and the new songs start coming through, room has to be kept somewhere for this. (Afterthought - an encore alternative to Romain perhaps?)

Micky Many are Called remains in the set, and in spite of some obvious newer developments, it still has me wondering how it still manages to stake it claim. Well, actually, one thing did occur to me - maybe it gives the boys chance to wind down and catch their breath a little, all the better to deliver a rousing, stupendous, awesome rendition of Spunk Rock. Perhaps I'm being a mite cynical, but, there's no arguing that rousing, stupendous and awesome, Spunk Rock was all this, and probably more. After that, Romain was good, but simply not in the same class.

A great night. Hard to imagine this is their version of treading water until if/when Phil's available again. Were that the case, we wouldn't have such blistering performances of re-introduced numbers. But, (yes, there's always a but in my reviews, I'm awkward that way), I noticed one thing afterwards that surprised me slightly, then worried me a bit. During ther nineties, Man have done a couple of top notch new albums, and put together a couple of decent new songs which they haven't taken into the studio. Yet nothing in this set was composed after 1976. Now I'm not advocating all the above songs be ditched, but I very much believe there should be a place in the set for at least Call down the Moon, Drivin' Around, Do It or Feather on the Scales of Justice. The first two of those are at least as good as anything else they've done. Still. It's these curious idiosyncracies that make Man the conundrum it is and always has been. The logic behind this band would baffle Bertrand Russell.

There are pics from this gig in the Gallery.

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