Almost any guitarist can be a wizard in the studio with all the trickery available, but it is on stage, under hot lights and with the heavy weight of expectation where the wheat is sorted from the chaff. It’s an environment where Irish virtuoso Pat McManus, backed by his stellar band, shines brightest and a magical night at Tribal Roch Festival in 2022 found them radiating blinding light. Thankfully, that evening was caught on tape, and now gets a release as Live In France, to document what makes the Pat McManus Band such a hot ticket.
For well over four decades, Pat McManus has been performing all over the world, firstly with hard rockers Mama’s Boys, then the folky Celtus, and has now clocked up 17 years with his eponymously-titled band. Having performed with everybody from Iron Maiden to Rory Gallagher and at such salubrious festivals such as Reading and Wacken, Pat “The Professor” McManus is a seasoned performer, and his pedigree is immediately obvious on opening shot ‘Blacklisted’. Never in the annuls of rock n’ roll has a better prolegomenon been written, and it certainly gets the pulses racing. To the war cry of “Let’s boogie!”, Pat and the boys get straight down to business, and with an earworm of this calibre, they can hardly go wrong. Operating as a trio means the band lock in tightly with drummer Paul Faloon and bassist Plunkett McComb providing a solid backbeat over which Pat lays all sorts of magic. His solo on this cut is simply spellbinding and is rewarded with rapt applause.
Tribal Roch is a festival that attracts a diverse range of artists, with an emphasis on the ethnic, and that’s exactly what Pat delivers on the couplet ‘Runaway Dreams’/’Trad Set’. Proving he’s just as adept on the violin as guitar, Pat delivers a toe-tapping, Guinness-spilling Irish jig that gets all present clapping in unison and raising the roof. This set encompasses all points in Pat’s career from the Mama’s Boys’ ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ to new cut ‘Honey Trap’, a high-octane rocker that shows the Pat McManus Band still have plenty left in the tank.
Although Pat’s playing is rooted in the American blues, there’s an equal (if not more) amount of traditional Irish music in his playing and that becomes evident on the next two songs. Firstly, on a cover of the Phil Lynott and Gary Moore penned ‘Parisienne Walkways’, on which Pat’s tone is beautiful, it is bright like a crisp winter’s morning, and sharper than a razor’s edge. The solo at the song’s tail is jaw-dropping, and you have no option but to stop what you’re doing and listen in awe. Rather fittingly, an emotive ‘Belfast Boy’ is dedicated to Gary Moore and finds classical guitar lines intertwining and tribal drums creating a call-to-arms of which Mr Moore would be proud. ‘Needle In The Groove’ was a big hit in Ireland back in 1982, and an extended live version allows each member of the band to flex their musical muscles. Uncle Bard & The Dirty Bastards also made an appearance at Tribal Roch 2022 (a blistering set released as These Are The Days and reviewed here) so it was only natural that the two should combine on a cover of ‘Ring Of Fire’, both bringing a vibrancy to the original (which is how all covers should be handled) and makes for a rowdy conclusion.
Capturing the Pat McManus Band in their natural environment Live In France does exactly what it says on the tin, and is a worthy addition to a jewel-encrusted discography.
- Got The Right
- Runaway Dreams
- Trad Set
- Don’t Look Back In Anger
- Honey Trap
- Straight Forward
- Parisienne Walkways
- Belfast Boy
- Needle In The Groove
- Ring Of Fire (with Uncle Bard & The Dirty Bastards)