The Pat McManus Band may have played at the early 5.00pm Friday slot in the V Lounge at the acclaimed Legends Of Rock Festival, but the feeling was pure late Saturday night.
The Professor has been bringing his own brand of joy to crowds since 1980s with The Mamas Boys, and Celtus in the 1990s, and this evening the impeccable band, which is Pat plus bass player Marty McDermott and drummer Paul Faloon, showed us exactly what they do – play super-charged, Metalled-up, Celtic Blues Rock, with extra scoops of exuberance and delight.
The packed V Lounge was treated to a set list which covered a good span of the years – 'Runaway Dreams' from the Mamas Boys along with the evergreen and still on fire 'Needle In The Groove' right through to 'Cold Town' and 'Belfast Boy', the beautiful tribute to fellow Irishman Rory Gallagher, from the new album, Dark Emerald Highway.
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This showed that the quality of songwriting and performance has in no way diminished, but achieves the rare balance of being simultaneously polished and raw. The stagecraft and responsiveness of the trio is faultless and I enjoyed every minute.
For the encore, Pat introduced a special guest – guitarist Ali Clinton who was celebrating his 18th birthday that very day. Ali has been touring with Uli Jon Roth since the age of sixteen and his talent, confidence and stage presence is that of someone way beyond his years.
For two tracks, 'Garbage Man' and 'Purple Haze', we were treated to the highest quality of guitar duelling and a huge sense of reassurance that this generation will keep the beacon of Rock and Metal burning.
After the show I caught up with Pat before the band dashed off to Holland to continue the tour.
We caught up briefly last year at the Cambridge Rock Festival (here) and the new album was just in the final stages of completion and it's now out.
"The album is out now and I was quite pleased with the result. Once it's out and mixed, I don't tend to listen to it again, I might wait a couple of years and then listen to it and say "Oh that's not bad!"
Do the songs change quite a bit in the live setting?
"Yes they do. It's funny, it's quite a creative thing in the studio, when I do it my mind goes racing off in all different tangents and the producer has to rein me in a little bit you know, and says things like 'remember that you are a three piece and if you want to play this live you have to be careful”. But we always say we'll find a way round it, and we do, so they do adapt and change.
I'm pleased as we must be doing about six or seven songs from that album so that's quite a lot, and if they cut it live then that's ok."
Well I thought so, you all really did sound amazing up there, it was great to hear a selection from acorss your catalogue.
"Well that's just what I do, I am a musician, I wouldn't be any good for anything else at this stage in my life! When I'm at home I also teach music three days a week and normally save the weekends for playing in Ireland and then we put the tours together and head off into Europe. I tell the kids I won't be around for five or six weeks and they're cool with that, I set them lots of homework to be getting on with.
"I play a lot of folk music as well which I also teach when I'm not writing or playing or out on the road and when I get back we have a big concert which I always look forward to as it's totally different, I like the variety."
Do you find that the audiences are different, the English ones, the Irish ones, in Europe?
"No not at all. I love playing in England, I really genuinely do. For me, it's where the music business is, and the people in England know their music. In Ireland it's marvellous as well, in Europe they are still marvellous, but I don't know, it was always an ambition of mine to play in England and to get a good reaction from the people, because some of the greatest bands in the world have come from England. I don't care what anybody says, it was this country that set the benchmark for every other country including America, so for me to get the seal of approval here means more to me than anything else."
You all certainly went down an absolute storm this here this evening! There is something special about this festival which is now in its third year. Love and family are two words that I keep overhearing in conversations today.
"Well you could feel that this evening when we were actually playing, and they are very good here in that they allow you to play and be yourself and from our point of view that's great cos we love it. My whole thing is that I write music and play, it's also my hobby.
"When you get that sort of appreciation that we got this evening it makes you more determined to go back and do better."
So tell me about the boy wonder Ali Clinton, you said you'd known him for a while?
"I met his dad when I was playing in a biker festival in Ireland and his dad has a T shirt company called Clinton Enterprises, they do mostly motorbike ranges, and he's a mad blues fiend. He said he had got a young lad and he asked me to give him some tuition, so I've been mentoring Ali since he was 11.
"I would fly over in between gigs and things to specifically do it and then fly back. People think I'm nuts but when you have such a good kid like that it's worth it. He was so into it and he's developed into such a great great player, and of course he's now playing with Uli Jon Roth, that just goes to show you the measure of the guy as Uli wouldn't have anyone in the band that couldn't really do their thing.
"So for me it was a great seal of approval - yes it worked, that kind of thing. Ali and I have remained friends and I try to steer him as best I can. I don't know everything and he'll probably go off on his own tangent and do his own thing now, but at least I can tell him that I've been up and down the highway a few times and I can tell him the pitfalls, I can do that for him, it's really valuable.
"He's in the midst of doing his first album, so I got him to record in Belfast where I could keep an eye on him and make sure it turned out the way he hoped it would turn out. The four or five completed tracks are absolute crackers."
To me it's such a relief that the mantle is being passed on and this amazing music that we all love so much will continue with the likes of Ali.
"Yes, classic rock is classic for a reason. I come from the whole ethos and tradition that when you teach music you teach it because you love it and you pass it on. So I get guys saying but you're showing them, you're showing them all your tricks, but why not? It's meant to be passed on, it's not meant to be kept and die with the person.
"Yes they will have a different take on it, but that's evolution, it moves on, but their hearts are set so they know where the core of it is coming from originally. So I never have any problems showing anybody or trying to help them the best I can, because it keep the music that I love alive."
I can see the love – you radiate from every pore the absolute love of what you do.
"I do really love it, it's not a stage persona, it's what I am, it's who I am, and when I get up on stage it's, again it comes from the very folky thing, everybody will get together because we actually like playing the music, if people don't want to listen that's cool, we can actually play in the corner ourselves – we are all grins and smiles and it carries over to what I do, it's the way I grew up playing music, and we try to share it as best we can."
So what's next? Obviously the new album is just out so you are promoting that, do have any longer term plans?
"No. We'll tour it for a while, I've had thoughts of maybe doing an acoustic album as I've never done a real acoustic album so far, so I might come up with something on that front, it just depends, it moves along at different stages, see how it goes."
Well I am thrilled that you are with us, your presence and that of the band has made a lot of people very happy and it's been an honour to be part of it.
"It's a real honour for me and privilege; I consider it an honour to be allowed to get up on stage and play, that's how I see it. When I do it I give 100%, and I'm not coming off stage saying well that could have been better, or not caring. I think when that starts happening to musicians they should pack it in. If they feel like that then go and get a job! If I hear moaning I just think well why are you doing it if it's such a bother to you? I love it and I have no bones about saying it!"
You are a long, long way from getting to that stage thankfully!
"I wouldn't do it! It doesn't matter if the place is full or if there are only ten people there, I would still play the same way, so I can come off and say that I did my best."
S before The X
Got The Right
Ready To Rock
The Messiah Will Come Again
Return of the G Man
Needle In The Groove
The Pat McManus Band:
Pat McManus - Lead Vocals + Electric and Acoustic Guitars and Violin
Marty McDermott – Bass + Backing Vocals
Paul Faloon - Drums