Has Paul Jones Found The Elixir For Everlasting Youthful Life?

The Manfred’s

Theatre Severn

Wednesday 17th May

The Manfreds, celebrating 60 years of making music with a nationwide tour arrived onto Shrewsbury’s Theatre Severn stage to a packed house. People expecting the sharp vocals and stage presence of Paul Jones and a bag full of singalong hits may have been surprised as that was not so, not so at all.

Instead, one watched as the band worked their way through a Jazz and Blues set with just a scant smidgen of Manfred’s greatest hits. Obviously labouring under the correct apprehension that serving up the same porridge will even put porridge lovers off having a bowl, one could understand the bands desire to  mix things up a bit. There seemed to be an important message that they all had/had other jobs too with other bands and other projects. That’s fine but we had come to watch the Manfred’s.

Is there such a thing as rehearsed spontaneity? There shouldn’t be; but there is. Paul Jones pointing at the next soloist and putting little actions to his songs all seemed remarkably "on" the cuff! The was hardly a whiff of “off the cuff,” during the whole performance. That’s a double-edged sword, firstly everyone on the stage knows where they are in the show, but it also makes the band looked so tight they hadn’t left any fun for themselves in the mix. One shouldn’t be able to tell that any musician is merely at work, squeezing the show into this rehearsed perfection strips the very soul out of the music they are playing which is ostensibly the blues, and my, how does that need soul!

There is a pithy humanity in the blues and it calls for true emotion, the slick presentation detracted from that. The Jazz did nothing to enhance the set and occasionally one felt that the instruments had fallen out with each other as they rambled around the rugged moonlike surface of modern Jazz. Not everyone’s cuppa for sure.

The plus and it’s a big one, the band comprises of wonderfully talented musicians. This reviewer was delighted to have seen Brendan Croker’s former Bassist Marcus Cliff. He is potentially the best bassist around as his solo proved. Tom McGuinness of McGuinness Flint, was originally in the Manfreds but went off to pursue a career with others. He was great tonight played well, sang well and brought a level of humble humanity which is good to see in one so talented. Simon Currie on Flute, Saxophone and Soprano Sax sure earned his crust too wow, what a player. Their keyboard player Mike Gorman played the hottest Jazz Keys one might ever hear, and the drummer was a sensation.

So, was the unimaginative single state lighting unhelpful for this spectacle? Maybe. A little more imagination might have emphasised the song’s contents much more theatrically. If one deconstructs a performance to get to the nitty gritty of it one is inclined to study the entire theatrical phenomenon. Watching music if not much is happening other than people beavering away on instruments, can sometimes be a little dry. There are other aspects of theatrical trickery that can lift the performance ever so slightly but enough to turn an alright show into a good one.

All that talent on the stage maybe one expected slightly more. But let’s look at the Peter Pan of Sixties music, Ken Barlow sorry, I meant Paul Jones. I draw that comparison because both Ken Barlow and Paul Jones are octogenarians. That is why this reviewer will cut some slack after all, if any one else can still do a two hour show at 81 and throw more energy into it than you will ever see on a stage from one guy, one is fundamentally obliged to tip the proverbial cap. His voice on the main is still fairly strong and his top range is highly impressive and would leave many younger vocalists behind. He is a legend but has he over rehearsed or has he done too many shows? I am sure he will go on and on yet as he is spookily youthful given his advancing numbers. To see that alone, was impressive.

But in summary it is a mixed bag of a review, there was high highlights and lowlights too. It was a show geared for the die-hard Paul Jones/Manfreds’ Fans. They got what they wanted but for someone expecting a 60’s pop show they may have been disappointed slightly. However more power to the irrepressible Manfred’s who are looking like they may outlive us all!

This is a Three star review.

Sofia Lewis



Sofia Lewis Sofia Lewis
For many years Sofia wrote here under her male name Owen J. Lewis. She is now mostly writing under her own name of Sofia Lewis. Sofia, who worked on independent radio for over ten years, lives in Shrewsbury and writes plays. She has over 15 titles published and her plays are performed all over the world. She is especially popular in America. Her poetry is also often noted and she writes reams of it most weeks. Since graduating in theatre in 1997 Sofia has been an Actor, Filmmaker, and a Secondary School Teacher. Reviewing theatre is something she thoroughly enjoys and she loves to see great theatre. As a musician Sofia is known throughout the UK she is a folk singer, and is often seen or heard around her native county singing and having fun. Sofia has contributed to loveshrewsbury.com for over a decade and enjoys sharing her views on theatre. Sofia has one daughter and grew up in Church Stretton.

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