Murrays Bar - Scarborough

Sunday 24 October 2004

Martin, Bob and GeorgeAnother new venue for the Man band. Around this time of year recently, I'd got used to a day by the seaside, but on the west coast. The west coast of Lancashire that is, Blackpool to be precise. So this time we head eastwards to Scarborough, an altogether more genteel spot. Murrays is a downstairs, club type venue, with plenty of bar space, a cocktail corner (mercifully shut tonight), and a curious array of setees and comfy armchairs. There was even a cloakroon - but as far as I could tell, no hat-check girl.

C'mon was just as it should be - loose and playful. It remains chiefly a workout for Micky, but it's not really a warmup since all the playing is top notch. By the second number, Visionaries, they were in top gear, and never really dropped the pace. Ace announced it was the last date of the tour, and they were going to enjoy themselves no matter what.

Mad on Her was superbly tight and crisp, and benefits from the grittier sound of George's Gibson, though it was hard to draw your attention away from frontman extrordinaire Martin Ace - no question, he was enjoying himself. He wasn't the only one - in contrast to the recent Doncaster date, the crowd were really into this. Hangin' On, though a more laid back song, was played with great gusto, and came with a different Micky Jones solo.

MickyI also noticed that Micky was messing around with the intro to Heaven and Hell. The band has only been playing this song live for a few dates, and already they're treating it as an old friend. This was a terrific performance, and Gareth's keyboards were well up in the mix - good! it's where they should be on this song. Actually the sound was pretty good all night, once the obligatory early grumbles about the monitors were out of the way. Considering the odd shape of the room, this is worthy of comment, especially bearing in mind some of the recent criticisms about gig sound quality. By Kangaroo, Martin was flying. And before the end of the song, so was his microphone stand. In fact the entire band were living up to Martin's promise about enjoying themselves. And then some.

Wings brought then pace down slightly, then Gareth's keyboards (again, no Hammond) brought in Drivin Around. (Incidentally, we were told that never have the Man band had a keyboard player with a longer name). I've been hoping for a long time that something from Call down the Moon would get back into the set, and I just wish it had happened sooner. This was simply awesome. Terrific playing from all concerned, especially in the instrumental section, father and son pushing in the same direction and unshakable support from the rhythm section. I don't keep an objective tally of these things, but the performance on this song was the best I've witnessed from the Man band for a few years. It really was that impressive.

Martin and BobThey finished off with old perennials Romain and MACBFGU, and the latter has had a bit of a blood transfusion, since it seems to be a favourite of George - he makes it a significantly weightier piece, and provides his longest solo of the night. Very good. After a brief wait, they're back for the encore of Bananas, as rapturously received as you'd expect, and at its crescendo a drum break from Bob with included him rattling the rafters, literally as well as metaphorically. As usual, Bob was superb. But you must have guessed that by now.

A very impressive performance. As I've already noted, the set benefits from the two CDTM songs, and I prefer a Kangaroo to a Popemobile, but that might just be personal taste. In passing, I'll note that C'mon, Romain, MACBFGU and Bananas are all back in the set together, which isn't exactly progress.

This was a high quality performance. With Doncaster and Hebden Bridge, I've seen two substandard Man gigs this year. I was due a good one.

There are pics from this gig in the Gallery.

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