The Boardwalk - Sheffield

Wednesday 24 July 2002

George, Martin & DekeThis was the Man band's second visit to the Boardwalk, the previous time being in 1997. That, like this night, was a curiousity since it was just the second gig I had seen with Bob Richards in place. The changes this time were rather more drastic. Following Micky Jones' operation to deal with a brain tumour, the band looked set to be one guitarist short for a few months, but to prove the Man band gene pool runs deep, the younger generation stepped in. Micky's son George was on stage fulltime, while the fruit of Martin's loins, Josh, was there for a few numbers.

There were a few tables scattered around the room which I don't recall from last time, and where we had previously found parking space easily across the road, a building site was now in place. Still, we were there in plenty of time.

George, Uncle Bob & JoshConflict of Interest keeps its place as opener, though with Gareth's synth taking the lead riff this time around. Though it's a fairly new song by Man standards, it has been through many different arrangements when played live. George took the solo with no sign of nerves, though made more use of the Strat's tremolo arm than his father does. Love isn't Love seemed to be taken at a very languid pace, and though still nerveless, it was clear that George was having to concentrate; give him 30 years and he will make it look as effortless as Micky does. There was next some good hearted bickering about relative ages before we continued with Face to Face. I still find this song to be dull as a live piece; its pace and tone are just too funereal, and it wasn't helped by Garth's synth solo which I thought at first was some unwelcome feedback. So, three songs in, and Deke was evidently being worked hard, but throughout the show he proved himself to be more than up to the challenge.

Josh was summoned to the stage at this point by Ace senior, and added guitar to Walrus; I was really impressed by this version - the organ and three guitars made for a thick, meaty sound which contrasts starkly with its accoustic roots. Manillo was similarly beefed up, and also benefitted from Josh's wahwah solo. This six piece lineup was doing a more than satisfactory job.

Deke & MartinDeke donned his Gibson and returned to centre stage for Ride, and gave a masterful performance of inspired guitar playing. George couldn't hope to match this, and it's to his credit that he didn't try to - but what he did, he did well. You can't ask for more than that. Martin then mused over the fact that the new Archbishop of Canterbury was from Swansea, and is actually younger than he is. There was just no escape from the theme of contrasting ages on this night. Martin further theorized that had Deke been catholic, he could have been Pope. A surreal concept, but a good link into Stuck Behind The Popemobile. Prior to the gig I had been a litle apprehensive about how the night would turn out, but by now it was clear that though Micky Jones is irreplaceable, this lineup does not disappoint.

The set's trend towards shorter songs was reinforced by 7171-551, though there was still space enough for another Gareth solo. He now seems well entrenched in the band and must be increasing his repertoire as the set has changed from tour to tour. Another shorty, Daughter of the Fireplace, finished the main set, and was perhaps the best overall performance of the night. Martin Ace played the archetypal rock'n'roll bass line, George Jones produced an excellent solo, and Deke Leonard's vocal was simply made for the song. Wonderful.

Gareth & GeorgeAfter an anxious delay (have they had time to rehearse anything else?) the stage lights came back up, and George returned to strum a few chords. He was joined by Bob Richards, and then by Josh Ace. I had the strange sensation that I was in a youth club. Spunk Rock began to build up escape velocity, and Martin Ace appeared - but only to sit in the audience for a few minutes. He appreciates a good show as much as we do. Once Deke and Gareth were on stage, he could resist the will to play no longer, and the song proper got underway, with Deke filling in for Micky on vocals. The night was finished off with Romain, featuring an extended intro and some confusion over the solos, but nobody really cared, neither band nor audience.

An excellent night. Everybody played well. Have I mentioned Bob Richards? No, and that's because he gave a flawless performance. There is a theory that the better a drummer is, the less you notice him, and that was my view of Bob tonight. Hell, he didn't even have his gloves on, so I can't even discuss that. Great stuff, Bob. Micky Jones has been the constant in the Man band over the years, but on this performance it seems they can pretty well get by without him.

Even so... get well soon, Micky. We miss you.

There are pics from this gig in the Gallery.

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