Pat McManus Band — Live In France (The Store For Music)

Just imagine the first time the good folk of Grasse — a modest town in the heart of France’s famous perfume region — laid eyes on Pat McManus.

You could probably smell the fear.

Long-haired, loud and a lover of life lived to the max, McManus might well have left the locals running for cover.

But the Northern Irish bluesman was there by invitation. And not for the first time.

Working his way through the French Riviera to the hillside haunt of his old pal Marco Le Rolle, he was en route to the legendary Tribal Roch festival in Peymeinade.

And this outstanding set — a spine-tingling career retrospective — is the result of that special August 2022 trip.

Mixing solo material with covers and myriad Mama’s Boys classics, it’s a timely reminder of McManus’s many talents.

Taking on the lead vocals, lead guitar and violin, the main man oozes blues rock authenticity.

And the rhythm section of Paul Faloon and Plunkett McComb — mainstays of the Pat McManus Band — ensure the tightest of shows never slackens.

Nick Dawes’ magical mix manages to capture the emotion of a groove-laden, late summer rock and roll party without losing sight of the mercurial musicianship.

Gigs like these don’t happen too often.

And Live In France turns out to be peak Pat McManus.

Parisienne Pat

Fans of gold-plated blues never tire of time spent in the company of Parisienne Walkways.

And McManus’ spellbinding version of the Gary Moore classic is the glue that holds this flawless set together.

Live In France is all about fusing the past to the present.

Parisienne Walkways and the Moore tribute Belfast Boy evoke memories of McManus’s blues rock upbringing.

But those roots continue to grow — spawning new material like the magnificent Honey Trap, released in 2020 and warmly applauded by the Tribal Roch masses.

The debate still rages as to why Mama’s Boys weren’t massive.

And listening to the Pat McManus Band paying due tribute to the 80s hard rockers only adds to the mystery.

The ZZ Top-styled Straight Forward, brilliant Blacklisted and timeless set closer Needle In The Groove should have made Mama’s Boys millions.

And McManus might well wonder what might have been.

But on nights like this the well-travelled singer songwriter stands tall alongside Moore et al as a bastion of blues rock innovation.

McManus could Look Back In Anger. Live In France suggests he’s still looking to the future.