Review From Rock Society Foreign Affairs man Richard Barnes dissects the CRS Night of the Proghead (Saturday 18th May 2002 - HLC, Rotherham)


Guy (well known to CRS folk from his association with PO90) and the band warmed up the audience in the absence of Qadesh.

Manning's musical style has the occasional proggy touch, most notably in 'Walking In Cascade' but is primarily a mix of Singer/Songwriter and solid classic rock. Very strong lyrically (streets ahead of any of the prog bands on the bill in fact) and with a band able to create powerful symphonic washes as well as bluesy touches and the ability to really rock, Manning made a big impression.

A good set mix with plenty of variety from the slower 'A Strange Place', through the reflective 'In My Life' and the melancholic but jaunty 'Where Do All The Madmen Go?', to the rocky numbers like 'Domicile' and 'Tightrope', where the powerful rhythm section of Rick Ashton on bass and Jonathan MacDonald Binns on drums got their chance to let rip. Guitarist Gareth Harwood and main ivories-man, Neil Harris, presented some neat, if short, solos; did I hear Mungo Jerry in there somewhere? Laura, the only one with no surname in the intros (it's Fowles actually, but Guy's a Yorkshire lad and girls are girls y'know) played some fine mellow sax solos as well as contributing to the multiple sets of keyboards and various percussion. Some of these instrumental solos and brief bridges would be worth allowing a bit more space to develop. 

My only criticism (if there really is one at all) is that it seemed somewhat incongruous at times to have someone deliver such thoughtful 
lyrics with a 5 piece band behind them. Often the songs appeared to be written quite separately to the music and both distracted from the other.
Only on a few songs like 'Tightrope' and 'Where Do All The Madmen Go?', did you get the sense that the song had been written as a 'band' song rather than for a solo artist. I think I would love to hear Guy sing some of the songs I heard tonight solo with guitar, because the intelligent lyrics deserve to be heard more clearly. From another angle, what we got were two great artists rolled into one - MANNING - the Singer/Songwriter and MANNING - the band and perhaps that's the better way to view the performance.

With Qadesh off, the band had to add a couple of unrehearsed numbers which they performed well, despite short notice. The sound was very clear and just the right volume. A good 90 minute set with songs from all four of their albums, sent us all off happy and ready for the evening's performance...

Night of the Proghead? Well 2 out of 4 bands were anyway, but as Martin (Hudson) said to me later, what the hell, if the music's good who cares what the label is, in fact, for me, one of the non-prog bands, MANNING, would get my vote as best band of the day for Saturday.