Review: Age is no problem for frontman Paul

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The Manfreds, The Martlets, Burgess Hill

I’m really glad Paul Jones didn’t join the Rolling Stones.

Way back in the 1960s, Brian Jones asked him to join the fledgling band. Paul declined.

I hate to think how the battle of the egos between him and Sir Mick might have ended, but I also think that road – thankfully not taken – would have deprived us all of another great, very different frontman.

While Sir Mick is not as raffish as we were led to believe in more innocent times, there is a rough edge to his charm.

Paul Jones has the aura of the naughty poshboy and a formidable energy, which his many years in showbiz have not dulled.

He acts his way through the songs in a way which is compelling and rarely embarrassing, despite the fact that the lyrics mostly relate to youth. His voice sounds better to me than it did in his younger days and his range is extraordinary.

He juggles compering the show with conducting the band, singing and playing harmonica – and makes it all look effortless. And all that at 71! Including Jones, this band boasts three septuagenarians and – to paraphrase a line from When Harry Met Sally – whatever they’re on, I want some of it.

Tom McGuinness was a laconic delight on lead guitar. On both this, and the last, occasion I saw him live, he bemoaned the legacy of a catholic upbringing. He probably won’t thank me for saying that his benign presence on stage does have something of the cleric about it.

As well as some gorgeous guitar solos, McGuinness provided great backing vocals in tandem with virtuoso bassist, Marcus Cliffe.

Mike Hugg – erstwhile Manfred Mann drummer – now plays keyboards with aplomb. Rob Townsend was predictably impressive on drums and the line-up was completed by the brilliant Simon Currie on sax and flute.

This was such a strong team throughout that it’s hard to pick highlights. The interplay between Paul Jones’ harmonica and Simon Currie’s sax cannot go unmentioned.

Tom McGuinness took to the mandolin to reprise the McGuinness Flint hit ‘When I’m dead and gone’ – a very fine and underrated song written by Benny Gallagher and Graham Lyle. I loved this song first time ’round and it has worn well. Marcus Cliffe’s bass solo was long in coming, but when it did – wow. The man makes sounds I have never before heard emerge from a bass guitar.

Coming back to Paul Jones, the man next to me appeared unmoved throughout the first half. In the second, he started to clap, later sang along and, by the end, was on his feet with everyone else. One by one, Jones reeled us all in.

There was a real joy and camaraderie about The Manfreds. I think that comes from doing something you love when you have nothing left to prove – except that age has not withered you.

By Jacky Hilary