Pick Your Rock and Metal

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Even superlatives aren't enough when Pat McManus plays

THERE are those of a certain vintage for whom the Pat McManus song The Oldest Rocker is not only appropriate but places us in a similar age range to the guitarist. Those of that vintage can not only appreciate, but also revel in the County Fermanagh axe man's development and excellence.

Playing the Diamond Rock Club on Sunday (21st December) the Pat McManus Band shone not only as a showcase for Pat's talent, but as a coherent three-piece that pull off the trick of being both laid back performers and tight as musicians.

Familiarity can breed contempt for some bands when they play a venue where they have treaded the boards before: not so Pat and his co-conspirators on rock 'n' roll exuberance.

Exuberance is sometimes a term associated with the over-the-top, big light show, heavy made-up bands who play every song like robots. But exuberance can also come from an artist who takes the stage with intent, who makes adjustments and improvises to both please themselves and to please the audience through exuberant playing.
Pic courtesy of Paul Verner

Those who have experienced Pat's playing before know that superlatives are not enough to describe his talent with a six-string slung around his shoulders. From delicate, heart-rending pieces through to hard and raging riffs, and to solos that explore the full toolbox of guitar techniques - hammer-ons, trills, tapping, sweep picking, you name it and Pat deploys it.

With bass and drums in ample support the set on Saturday night flowed with too many highlights...that may be an oxymoron, but it makes redundant the inclusion of a track-by-track analysis of the set, other to mentions some notable songs that stood-out.

Recent album Dark Emerald Highway was showcased appropriately with S Before X, Fallen Angel and Belfast Boy all coming to life on the stage, the latter track dedicated to the late Gary Moore.
Pic courtesy of Paul Verner

With the likes of Juggernaut stretching their legs on stage Pat took the audience on a six-string journey, with diversions along the way to fiddle playing and slide guitar played on the floor.

Being so close to Christmas Pat and Co made sure their fans left with smiles, throwing a few covers to keep all happy - Sharp Dressed Man and Christmas Number One contender Highway to Hell included. However, adapting the chorus Sweet Home Alabama to Merry Christmas Ballymena was also a sure-fire crowd-pleaser. But, it should be noted that where many bands throw in tracks like this to keep the punters happy for those watching Pat and his band it feels like it is a partnership in rock rather than a contrived encore.

As a reviewer one tries to convey a sense of a concert to reflect their own opinions of the performance for those who were there; and to outline what is was like for those who did not attend. Therefore, it is right to conclude by saying: "You had to be there," but you weren't and you missed a superb penultimate show for the 2013 gigging season with Derwin and Fiona and the Diamond Rock Club audience.

Great show, great band, great solos, great crowd.

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