Concert review: The Manfreds (Millfield Arts Centre, Edmonton)

Last night’s concert in the Millfield Theatre at Edmonton (which seats just over 300 people, resembles a lecture theatre, and is named the Bruce Forsyth Auditorium after one of the town’s most famous sons) was the fourth time we have seen The Manfreds live, and the first time they’ve carried the show on their own.

Manfred Mann was formed in 1962 by Mike Hugg and Manfred Mann, and once they found their bluesy singer Paul Jones (born Paul Pond but quickly renamed) they became one of the foremost groups of the 60s, providing the catchy theme tune for TV programme ‘Ready Steady Go’ (5-4-3-2-1), and having a string of hit records including ‘Pretty Flamingo’, ‘Come Tomorrow’, ‘Do Wah Diddy Diddy’, and ‘Watermelon Man’. In 1966 Paul Jones left for a solo career, including a spell as an actor in films (notably the recently re-released-to-DVD ‘Privilege’) and stage roles in musicals, and the band enrolled a second singer, Mike D’Abo, with whom they had hits with ‘Ha Ha Said The Clown’, ‘Fox on the Run’, ‘The Mighty Quinn’ and ‘Ragamuffin Man’.

We heard all these hits and more last night – including a couple of Paul’s solo songs (‘I’ve Been a Bad Bad Boy’, and a song from his recently released album), and some contributions from Tom McGuinness, notably his McGuinness-Flint crowd pleaser ‘When I’m Dead and Gone’. As for Mike D’Abo, he’s known as a songwriter as well as a fine singer, and a couple of his creations were shared last night (‘Handbags and Gladrags’, and ‘Build Me Up Buttercup’). Both Jones and D’Abo are fine blues singers – D’Abo’s voice has grown richer through the years, while Jones seems to have found an upper range he didn’t have in his early years.

The Manfreds put on a great show – allowing the whole band to shine with Mike Hugg’s piano, Paul Jones’ harmonica, Tom McGuinness’ guitar playing (and he’s very good), and much more. The Millfield sound system wasn’t the greatest, and a rather over-enthusiastic fan determined to make her voice heard screeched badly and tunelessly throughout, sometimes drowning out the singers (was it deliberate? if it was, go to karaoke or moderate the volume, please), but we don’t let such things spoil a good performance. If you like quality popular music with a bluesy edge, then this show is for you, and yes, the singer still looks sweet in his Armani suit!