5-4-3-2-1; It’s the Manfreds

FULL HOUSE: The Manfreds at The CivicFULL HOUSE: The Manfreds at The Civic
FULL HOUSE: The Manfreds at The Civic
IF you had attended the Rotherham Civic Theatre, hoping for a stream of hits from the sixties, you would probably have been disappointed. But before you abandon reading further, hold on. With six quality musicians on show, an almost sell out crowd and a rich catalogue to call on, this still had the potential to be a good night.

The two-part show featured nearly 30 songs under the guidance of two musical legends, Paul Jones and Tom McGuiness, both part of the original line up of Manfred Mann.

For seven years during the sixties, the band released a sequence of pop songs that meant they were seldom out of the charts; they also had three number ones.

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They opened tonight with a blues number, which was one of many during the evening, unsurprising given the Jones history of involvement in the genre. Perhaps the highlight of these was the rendition of the Howlin Wolf classic Smokestack Lightning which featured a stunning Paul Jones harmonica solo. He is widely regarded as one the top harmonica players around and tonight illustrated his versatility, using a range of instruments in different keys.

Tom McGuiness was on guitar for the whole show (he was the original bass player in Manfred Mann) and dipped regularly in to his own back catalogue, that included songs from his successful seventies outfit McGuiness Flint.

Not to be outshined by the talents of McGuiness and the charismatic Paul Jones, who still sings well in his signature style and belies his age by about ten years, the remaining four band members all showed their own pedigree of musicianship. Each performed a couple of solos and Saxophonist, Simon Currie, successfully augmented the sound on a range of wind instruments. At one point, he switched to the soprano saxophone, widely regarded as the most challenging of the saxophone family to play.

By their reaction to the Manfred sixties hits, the audience (numbering around 350), emphasised the need for the band to stick to the plot. However, each time the Manfreds wandered off into other areas, they had the savvy to return to the core product with a good performances of a classic hit. That was mainly the three number ones Doo Wah Diddy Diddy, Pretty Flamingo and The Mighty Quinn.

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Rotherham has its own connection to the last of those following its release and subsequent chart-topping run in 1968. In the same year, Rotherham United Football Club signed a quality player called Johnny Quinn and for most of the next decade, the club adopted the song as its anthem. At each home game the team would take to the pitch accompanied by the sound of the Manfred Mann hit.

Tonight though, was all about the music and although the band were clearly enjoying performing their set, it was clear that the paying customers would have liked more of the classics.

This was probably fuelled by the choice of too many songs from the individual repertoires and an emphasis on showcasing the solos of each of the band members. But it’s fair to say that at the end of the two hour show no one seemed unhappy and it is more than likely that the Manfreds will return next year and sell out the theatre once more.

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