May 26-27, 2004

Read the story below

PHOTOS – Part One
(concerts and soundcheck)


Part Two

Read the pre-visit Q&A

We didn’t talk music with Manfred Mann – okay, there was one question posed on the way to the Jaffa Gate of Old Jerusalem, only one question. So this may sound strange, but come to think of it and it makes a perfect sense. Why talk about music when you can listen to it? And while music speaks volumes about an artist who plays it, there should be a simple conversation if you want to cut through the mystery that surrounds the man. Manfred likes to be mysterious, that’s a part of his image, yet this part means keeping distance – he keeps the distance, in a gentlemanly British way – which might be right, although it doesn’t let Mann’s charm come through. Not completely, of course, it’s very charming to see him dance behind the keyboards stack – but once Manfred beams with a shy smile, there’s the same face transpires before you that’s captured on the mid-’60s footage, not one of a professor Mann looks like. The looks don’t lie anyway: a conversation with the man is likely to enrich your knowledge, no matter what the subject – in the Holy Sepulchre yard two of us spoke about religion. His atheism helped Manfred notice the great city beauty beyond the shroud of its historical and religious significance, and on the way to the gig, he tried to get to the core of political situation.

His colleagues didn’t think about such complexities – blinded by the bright light, the other band members just revelled in the finest weather there could be. And there was nothing to get in the way of that, so bassist Steve Kinch made his tracks to tracking down some postcards, and singer Noel McCalla walked out to buy some shoes instead of those he forgot at home and some rolling tobacco – we succeeded with the first and arranged for the second to be delivered right to the Haifa venue. And it was only Mick Rogers to pull out from a journey to Jerusalem, because the veteran had no sign of tourist fever but signs of sunburns on his skin.

Many didn’t recognized Mick – well, some even addressed McCalla as “Manfred’, even though the two, to put mildly, are of different color – and relalised who was in front of them only when they started listening to not only his guitar yet to the voice as well. Realised once the guitarist began singing “Spirits In The Night”. Quite a canny trick – the first verse had been delivered by Noel – immesely puzzled those informed, who greeted mightily not only old faves like “Martha’s Madman”, “Angels At My Gate” and “Don’t Kill It Carol”, but also later period songs such as “Shelter From The Storm” the concerts began with. Little by little, the atmosphere grew hot – the “Spirits” follow-up was “Blinded By The Light” – and reached a degree at which McCalla burst into 40-years-old “Do Wah Diddy Diddy”; the fact more interesting as the singer admitted in the dressing room that he knew not a lot of the band’s classics and, while recalled vaguely the “Pretty Flamingo” tune, failed with “Fox On The Run”. Still, it was only Tel Aviv audience who witnessed this one-off improvisation – and only those present at the soundcheck who heard Noel do Bob Marley’s “Jammin'” – although the “Smoke On The Water” riff flown into the jazzy stream of “The Mighty Quinn” for pure joy blasted off on both shows.

The musicians were clearly getting their kicks from the proceedings – not less than the punters, and the only Geoff Dunn seemed to be calm, if only the one who drums for some 100 minutes can be called calm, yet Geoff is such by nature not by trade. So a fun ruled the crowd. In Haifa, one over-zealous fan insistently demanded Noel gave him a hand and looked extremely surprised once, having turned away, he felt tapping on his head from the very same limb. Just before that, McCalla took a camera from an audience member and, on request, took snaps of Manfred; a little later, when the ensemble returned to the stage for encores, the vocalist walked into the audience where he posed for pictures and signed autographs and then reached for the microphone again.

Meanwhile, Rogers was doing an amazing, stunning – there’s no adequate word to describe what his fingers wrung from the Stratocaster – instrumental version of “For You”. That was Mick’s idea, as he doubted he’d be able to get the dramatic heights which Chris Thompson reached. And it’s this that the only musical question asked from Mann was about. No, Manfred didn’t refuse to talk music. “Come on, grill me!” he teased. Yet there was no point in spoiling his stay in the country, so the answer was, “Nah, the next time!” And the countdown to the next time has already commenced ticking on…

PHOTOS – Part Two

© Eugene Veinard exclusively for DME

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