Pat McManus at The Railway Venue, Bolton – 24th March 2013

There comes a time in one’s life where a spot of re-evaluation needs to take place….the trouble is I seem to be doing it all the time these days. The latest thing to do this is my list of guitar heroes. You probably know from my interviews that I wanted to play the guitar after seeing The Sweet on TV when I was three – I finally managed to persuade my parents to let me have lessons when I was about 8 years old. The thing was, although my teacher was one of the greatest classical guitar players in Britain I had a mjor problem – it was classical guitar! Eventually I progressed to getting an electric one and so the story continues, however over the years I managed to have my set list of guitar heroes who can do no wrong….and then, along came The Professor.

Support for the night came from Brother the young band fronted by the prodigious talent that is Ali Clinton – guitarist in Uli Jon Roth’s band and has benefitted in the wisdom of Pat’s guitar teaching over the years. Ali has a voice that trancends his youth and with friends like his he deserves a long and successful career.

Then came the main event. I knew the Pat McManus name (I’m not that much of a heathen) and knew of his past in Mama’s Boys (with his brothers John and the late, great Tommy) but was completely unaware of his work. From the moment Pat and his band (Marty McDermott on bass and Paul Faloon on drums) hit the stage I and a number of other members of the crowd were mesmerised by the skills and blown away by the music of a man that should, without any doubt, be on everyone’s list of guitar greats. The 3 piece band created such an immense sound in the, always awesome, Railway that, at times, you could have thought that there were 6 or more people on stage…there wasn’t.

Even more staggering was the range of musical styles on offer – Pat can blend rock, blues, celtic and traditional music and sounds and generate a glorious  blend that, on paper may sound strange, was utterly beautiful. Playing tracks from his Mama’s Boys days (“Needle in the Groove” still has the most ridiculously catchy riff) plus an array from his PMB albums “In TIme”, “2PM” and “Walking in the Shadows” Pat had to be the happiest man alive – clearly thrilled to be on-stage and happy to play the music with a passion that I have rarely seen replicated by bands/musicians who have had as many “near misses” as Pat has experienced in his career.

pat_at_the_railway_307What a technical ability! Having originally been an award winning fiddle player (which still plays an important role in tonight’s set) Pat has taken techniques from this and applied them to his guitar playing. I could name a lot of great guitarists whose technique is mind blowing but can play the old “look at me” tricks to the detriment of the song. Pat blends finger picking, standard rock plectrum work, acoustic and two-handed tapping and never do you think “Ah yeah, but what about the song?”. The Professor moves seamlessly from rhythm to tapped styles (whilst still singing!) and then reels off a blistering lead section

Never have I known an artist inspire members of the audience for whom an act was an unknown comodity want to find out more AND clamour for a return very soon. And me? I’m hooked and, even worse, I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I wasn’t aware of how great the Pat McManus Band. However, I am so glad that I am now a fan and love the spirit and class that Pat shows in his music. When he comes to town you must make sure that you are there too – I guarantee you that you will have an amazing night and you may end up with pockets as light as mine afterwards. The joie de vivre of Pat’s stage performance comes over on record and DVD – so much so that my collection keeps growing (I even bought a guitar like one of Pat’s!)

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Photos by Frank McElherron

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