I’ve been to more Man gigs over the years than I care to remember but I’ve never seen Man at the Half Moon. More than two hours of music was played to a packed house and the sense of renewal was palpable, with Man playing at least six new songs from their new album.
The most enjoyable aspect of the evening for me was Phil Ryan’s keyboard work. There was some breathtaking clavinet soloing, some mighty organ padding, much funkiness and a harmonic sensibility which blows blues-based rock clean out of the water and stretches all the way back to the Man albums Ryan played on in the early 70s.
There was some great father/son action in the show’s latter stages with Martin and Josh Ace trading vocals side-by-side, spanning the generations within this band, which has now been in existence – barring a seven year absence – for an incredible 47 years.
Sometimes the vocals were a little rough. None of the band are specialist singers and there were some points at which the voices were drowned out by the huge battery of guitars and keyboards or simply off-mike.
BJ Cole added pedal steel on 3 new songs and 2 old ones. Most Man gigs I’ve been to generate a party atmosphere, with extended improvisation over hypnotic one chord grooves and Mr Cole’s wash of glissando harmonies enhanced that. Rene Robrahn laid down solid yet loose foundations on drums and James Beck on guitar and vocals somehow seems a more fitting successor to the late great Micky Jones than Micky’s own son George who is, nevertheless, also great.