17 September 2018

Review: Man – Robin 2, Bilston 13th Sept 2018 by Steve Gould

I have to admit, the first time I came across Man was on the “Greasy Truckers Party” album released back in 1972. It was a double vinyl release and the first side of the first disc was one track called “Spunk Rock” (originally released on their studio album “2oz of black plastic with a hole in the middle” as “Spunk Box”), retailing at a mere £1.49 it soon became a thing of legend and I unfortunately sold it off when I had a huge purge on my vinyl back in the day, something I deeply regret now, but needs must at the time I suppose. The good news, I did manage to get a copy of the album on CD, a 3-cd set, extremely upgraded with extra tracks including the FULL version of the mighty “Spunk Rock”, so this was one happy bunny,  I digress………….

Formed back in 1968, 2018 sees the band celebrating a very interesting, if not chequered, career with a revolving door of members coming and going and in the case of most of the original line-up, going to a better place I’m afraid with only Martin Ace (Bass Guitar – Ace of Bass perhaps ??  Sorry) remaining and even he hasn’t had an ongoing relationship with the band having left at one point to form “The Flying Aces” only to return at a later date

I have to admit, one thing that grates is when people labour a point that “it can’t be **** without so and so in the band, how can they call themselves ***** when there’s only one (or in some cases NONE) of the original band left ???” Case in point – Uriah Heep, Hawkwind, Jethro Tull, Sweet – the list goes on. Well my attitude is, does it REALLY matter ???? If there’s a band, a group of people who are happy to carry the flag and keep the music alive for new and future generations, surely that’s not a bad thing even though that old dog “tribute band” will undoubtedly rear its ugly head when discussions of this nature kick off – rant over.

So, here we are at The Robin celebrating a 50 year anniversary with the legendary Man, but a very different line-up that gave us Spunk Rock back in 1972 !! This is a band that are difficult to define as they straddle a number of genres – psychedelic, blues rock,  hard rock, prog, jam rock, who knows, who cares ?? Perhaps their most successful album back in the day was “Be Good To Yourself, At Least Once a Day” which came with a most incredible gatefold sleeve that opened to a huge cartoon map of Wales, another  victim of the “Great Vinyl Selloff” I’m afraid L . Good news is, they played “C’mon” and “Bananas” from that very album tonight along with a superb version of “Spunk Rock” albeit a shorter interpretation, but equally mind-blowing.

With Martin Ace taking centre stage, Shane Dixon on drums and Martin’s son Josh to the right and James Beck to the left, with a fifth member on the extreme left who added keyboards, acoustic and vocals (unfortunately, I didn’t get his name), we had 100 minutes of awesome tuneage mainly centred around their albums from their most creative period (the golden decade – the 70s). The irony is, neither James or Josh were alive when this music was written , but speaking to the guys after the set, they grew up with the music of Man and both learnt Guitar around the same time. Needless to say, they kicked the Robin’s ass……….

There were no printed setlists to grab, as far as I know and I’ve struggled to find it online, so will have to work from memory. Along with the previously mentioned tracks we also had a piece written by Josh which saw him take on the keyboard, I believe it was called “Too Much Too Soon”, we also had yet another Man classic “Romain” and  “Many Are Called But Few Get Up” as an encore, yet another classic Man track. One things’s for sure, it was not an extensive set of tracks as many went on beyond their original studio form with jamming and improv kicking in to take the whole experience to another level. If you’ve ever experienced Man live, you’ll know what I mean !! This is what you want from a live experience, surely.

The room was well attended and with the usual mix of grey hair and slapheads (me included), I’m very pleased to say, at several points during the evening there was the makings a of a primitive form of mosh pit going on down the front with a few “liberated” souls proving you can still party despite the onset of years, bring it on I say.

Maybe not for the Prog purist, but inventive, experimental and mind-blowing nonetheless. Standout for me was James Beck, a guitarist extraordinaire with many solos throughout the evening to take things to the next level. It was just great to see fresh faces embracing this amazing music to keep it alive and kicking for the next generation of Man fans and although the fan base may be “of a certain age”, with fresh blood onboard and new material on the way, I think it’s safe to say, the current lineup is here to stay – superb.

You may be interested to know that the band is back on their home turf on Sept 20th 22nd and 23rd when they play Cardiff, Colwyn Bay and Swansea respectively. If you’re free and in the area, do yourself a favour and check them out, you will NOT be disappointed.