Monday 31 October 2022

10CC - The Anvil, Basingstoke - 29th October 2022

In my early teens, I was very enthusiastic about the music of 10CC.

They managed to mix quirky with rocky with some great ballads and they, without being the 'Prog Rock'/'Public school rock' set, managed to bring something different and imaginative on albums like The Original Soundtrack and How Dare You.

As with many bands of their type, though, they were rather swept away (including in my mind) by the rise of punk and new wave, but in recent years I returned to those albums and found plenty to still like.

I had seen that '10CC' still toured, but as the only original member was Graham Gouldman, I felt maybe they'd be a rather pale shadow of themselves, not that I'd ever seen the original lineup perform live!

More recently though, I'd read that 2 other members of the touring band (Rick Fenn and Paul Burgess) had been in the lineup since the 1970s and had played on some of the albums (Bloody Tourists and Deceptive Bends) that I enjoyed, so spotting them playing at a venue close by, I bought a ticket.

As the event drew closer, I became increasingly skeptical. Gouldman is now in his mid-70s and Fenn and Burgess are no spring chickens and, with an all seater venue, I thought I might be in for a rather gentle evening of nostalgia.

So, it was with some pleasure on my part that, after support act Paul Canning, who was very amusing, although I didn't really warm to his one-man and a guitar set, and an interval, the lights went down and a video started to play Son of Man (A Gouldman and Godley co-operation), giving an audio-visual potted history of 10CC.

This was something a bit different (and hinted at a Godley involvement in the concert, more to come on that).

As the video ended, the band appeared taking their places amongst an array of guitars, keyboards and percussion instruments.

The, mostly over 70 (there were a few younger people), audience warmly received them and they started with The Second Sitting for the Last Supper and then Art For Art's Sake.

Three things immediately struck me during these songs.

Firstly, the sound was good, I could hear the lyrics and the instruments. Secondly, the level of musicianship was high, but with none of the self-indulgence you sometimes associate with 70s music (something that I liked about 10CC way back then - They were talented and clever, but rarely show-offy and always with a sense of humour).

Thirdly, live, the tracks had a harder edge to them than the rather smoothed out recordings have. I guess some wouldn't see this as a positive, but for me it made the live performance far more exciting than I was expecting. They definitely did not sound like a group of old (With the notable exception of youngster, Ian Hornal, taking the Eric Stewart slot on vocals) men going through the motions.

This tour was billed as the 10CC Greatest Hits tour 2022 and there was no shortage of hits, reminding people, if they needed it, that 10CC had been a big group in their time.

After the first two 'heavyweight' tracks, the lighter weight Life is a Minestrone (always a favourite of mine), Good Morning Judge and The Dean and I bounced merrily and energetically along before Old Wild Men (a song about ageing rockstars!) and the quirky Godly and Creme penned track Clockwork Creep reminded us of their more experimental tracks.

A full length version (and a bit, timing it a little over 10 minutes) of Feel The Benefit (parts 1,2 and 3) followed and received a well deserved raptuous applause (although to be fair, the audience seemed happy, and justifiably so, with every song). This was followed by another powerful track in the form of the Wall Street Shuffle.

At this point, Graham Gouldman diverted into playing a new track of his, Floating In Heaven, which was enjoyable enough.

They were back on familiar 10CC tracks with The Things We Do For Love next and then did a cover of one of Hornal's solo songs, a '10CC like song' written with Gouldman. It didn't sound overly out of place, although I detected 'Boom-Bang-Bang-a-Boom' Eurovision elements at times, which I don't think would have made it into a true 10CC track.

After early track 'Silly Love' there was a highlight for me. While the band played the instruments, Kevin Godley appeared on a video screen to sing the vocals for Somewhere in Hollywood, it was a rather inspired moment again, I thought, and impressed me greatly - It was also nice to see, albeit virtually, another original member performing.

My wife would have cringed at the next track, I'm Mandy Fly Me, as she was teased mercilessly with the title at school, but the slightly unsettling supernatural tone of the song has always made it another favourite of mine and the performance (as throughout) was great.

Someone videoed this track - Not great, but they have rules on no cameras! Sound is pretty good, though.

Crowd favourite (and possibly the only track some of the audience remembered!) I'm Not In Love, followed. It is undeniably a great song, but not an absolute favourite of mine, although I was clearly in the minority in that respect.

The set finished with Dreadlock Holiday (and the words "I don't like Basingstoke, I love it", although I'm sure they do that in every venue!), but were back quickly for a two song encore.

The first was an acapella version of Donna, the band's first single, which was enjoyable and quite amusing as Hornal joked around pretending to struggle to reach the falsetto notes (which are very high!).

The final song, which had nearly everyone on their feet and singing along was Rubber Bullets, the perfect feel good set ender.

The Rubber Bullets performance from the Hexagon in Reading.

I had come half-expecting to be underwhelmed, but having listened to the thrashing guitars of a group of youngsters early in October, the tuneful musicianship and powerful, energetic performance of 4 men into their 60s and beyond and one younger one, was eye (and ear) opening.

If I was really looking to find fault, I'd say that Hornal's voice doesn't work perfectly on all the tracks he takes the lead, but equally on some it was ideal.

Far from being disappointed, this was one of the best gigs I've been to and a definite contender for the best post-COVID.

I'm sure many of the bands still touring after 30 years (let alone 50!) really should stay at home and drink their cocoa, but the current manifestation of 10CC are definitely not one of those.

Long may they continue to defy people like me's expectations!

Son of Man(GG/06 song)
The Second Sitting for the Last Supper
Art for Art's Sake
Life Is a Minestrone
Good Morning Judge
The Dean and I
Old Wild Men
Clockwork Creep
Feel the Benefit
The Wall Street Shuffle
Floating In Heaven (Graham Gouldman song)
The Things We Do for Love
Say the Word (Hornal cover)
Silly Love
Somewhere in Hollywood(with Kevin Godley lead vocals on video screen)
I'm Mandy Fly Me
I'm Not in Love
Dreadlock Holiday
Rubber Bullets

Sunday 16 October 2022

Nerina Pallot - Boiler Room, Guildford - 12th October 2022

Great singer, great songs and good sound! A highly enjoyable Wednesday evening.

I only discovered Nerina Pallot while browsing through upcoming gigs at a local venue, The Boiler Room in Guildford.

I've a liking for female singer-songwriters, so I browsed YouTube for some of her videos and liked what I heard and bought a ticket.

I managed to book myself for two gigs, two nights running, so thought I might feel a bit jaded after trekking to Southampton for The Amazons (read about that elsewhere), but I booked this one first and it's a short journey to Guildford.

I arrived just after 7:30 and found I'd already missed one support artist, Lily Gvero, so I can't give you an opinion on her (check out Google, I found one video easily enough, if you're interested).

For a Wednesday night, the venue was already fairly full by 8, when T.I.G.Y came on. This is a husband and wife duo, she with a pleasant voice, but I found them and their songs a bit saccharin for my taste. Certainly not a chore to listen to, but after three songs I did wander off to buy myself a beer (the bar is just one end of the single room, so I was still able to listen).

I managed to shuffle nearer to the front as the venue filled, if not to capacity, certainly getting close to it.

Having expected the venue to be pretty quiet (as it was for the equally good, imo, Ren Harvieu) I was surprised at the size of the audience. Clearly Nerina has a strong following.

One irritation was the wall of bulky middle-aged (no, let's be honest, ageing) men who stood right at the front, blocking the view for most of the people behind them.

I've stood there myself once or twice, but most people bend down a little to provide more of a view for those behind. These blokes didn't and the way they stared, unmoving at Nerina throughout the show did make me wonder if she might need a restraining order or 4!

Anyway, none of that is her, her band or the venue's fault, so what was the gig like?

The band appeared at 9 sharp, Nerina in dungarees and a drummer, guitarist and bassist joining her.

Having seen some videos, I knew that she was likely to play both keyboards and guitar during the set and sure enough there was a keyboard setup near the front of the stage (It once had a cage in front of it - when did that go? Nice that it has, though!) and a taller microphone waiting for her to stand by later on.

They started with 'Cold Places' and then quickly into new song 'Alice at the Beach', which I think is a great song.

Part of Alice at the Beach

An earlier song, 'Idaho' followed and then 'Bring Him Fire' and the upbeat 'Put You Hands Up', which saw Nerina switch to a guitar.

Part of Put Your Hands Up

Nerina chatted easily (possibly a little too, as she got a reminder about the 10:30 curfew handed to her part way through, so possibly skipped a song?) and involved the band (especially her guitarist, the others were at the back, but introduced - Yes, Bastille, it's not hard to do!).

She skipped between old and new tracks (from a just released album), quipping that 'Most of you are only here for the 2nd album' at one point - Not really knowing of her before, I didn't even know which album this was!

Performance wise (aside from forgetting the lyrics to one song and having to look them up on Google, which was quite funny) she was excellent. I really like her voice, a good range, but no vocal acrobatics and able to switch between melancholy ballards, jazzy numbers and upbeat pop with ease.

Part of The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter

The set ended with 'Master Builder' (a song 'ripping off Stevie Wonder' we were told) and then after about 15 seconds they were back for an encore ("I'm glad you clapped because I finished the set too soon after the warning about the curfew and have some more songs to play!" we were told).

It finished, as she often seems to looking through, with Sophia.

After the disappointment of The Amazons (there, saved you reading the review if you can't be bothered), this was a great gig.

Nerina has a great voice, a good back-catalogue of varied material, an easy-going manner and the sound was excellent, with a perfect balance of vocals and instruments.

Perhaps it's easier to achieve a good sound balance in a tiny venue like the Boiler Room (or it may be far harder, I've no idea!), but I know the Guildhall can be good too, so this reminded me that there's no excuse for the sound at the Amazons gig. Still, move on.

Nerina Pallot and her band lifted my mood and I'll 100% go and see her again if she's playing locally.

If you like a female singer-songwriter, I'd advise you to do so, too!

Cold Places
Alice at the Beach
Bring Him Fire
Put Your Hands Up
Mr King
I Don’t Know What I’m Doing
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
Geek Love
Master Builder
Only the Old Songs

Wednesday 12 October 2022

The Amazons - Guildhall, Southampton - 11th October 2022

An evening of thrashy guitars - That's how I'll remember this gig

I heard an Amazons track somewhere and thought it sounded pretty good, so I looked them up and found they were playing the Southampton Guildhall, a venue I'd really enjoyed when I'd seen Editors there, and I rather rashly booked a ticket there and then.

As time passed, I listened to more of their stuff and started to feel that they maybe weren't quite my thing.

Still, the ticket was booked and I turned up in time to catch the support act.

The support act were a band, from the Isle Of Wight, fronted by two women, a Brunette taking the lead and a blonde in support - Oh, Wet Leg? No, sadly not. This was Coach Party.

The thrashy guitar feeling started with them.

Lousy sound for support acts is nothing new, but I couldn't distinguish a word the lead singer sang for a long time and the tunes were pretty much lost in the cacophony.

Maybe I'm being unfair, but I got the feeling someone saw a band that looked a bit like Wet Leg, from the Isle of Wight and snapped them up. Some of their videos look surprisingly like pastiches of Wet Leg's too!

The only song I could clearly hear was 'Everybody Hates Me', which sounds far better on YouTube than it did live!

To be fair to them, they were energetic and certainly warmed most of the audience up, but to me it just sounded like noise on the night.

The Amazons later said that the Guildhall was the first big venue they played, as a support act, and you hope they had the same limited sound check time as they'd obviously given Coach Party.

That said, I'm not sure the Amazons did much of one themselves.

For many of their songs, the vocals were muddy and indistinct, drowned out, once again, by thrashing guitars.

OK, that's their sound, but the guitars were far more dominant than on recordings and it did tend to make many of the songs hard to distinguish from each other, I only recognised a few, although from the singing along going on, the, mostly student, crowd obviously knew and recognised more than I did.

It did start pretty well, with one of the band coming on from stage left, starting the intro to "How Will I Know?", followed by "Ready For Something" and "Ultraviolet", but soon the tracks started to merge into each other with the vocals lost behind the wall of frantic guitars.

A brief acoustic interlude for "Nightdriving" and the quieter track "Northern Star" (where the audience were encouraged to wave their phone lights in the air...Really? In 2022?) were welcome breaks from the the thrashing, but normal service was resumed shortly after each.

This all reads rather negative and I certainly wouldn't rank it amongst my favourite gigs, but they were energetic and put on a good show, I guess they just didn't hit the spot for me.

Clearly a lot of the audience were really enjoying it, but I did notice that a lot of people were drifting away before the end of the set, so maybe I wasn't alone in feeling that it was a bit samey.

They finished the main set with 'Junk Food Forever' (probably their best known song) and were playing right up to the 11AM curfew, so I can't see how they would have squeezed in an encore, but I left as the strains of Junk Food finished to raptuous applause (Earlier gigs on the tour did feature an encore, so maybe they squeezed one in, a setlist posted later suggested they did).

I didn't head home disgruntled, though.

If you gamble on bands you've never seen, you're going to be pleasantly surprised sometimes and less so on others. I guess, realistically, The Amazons delivered what I feared, but not what I hoped.

Contrary to how the sound on recordings, they felt a bit 'Stadium Rock'/'Guns n Roses-lite' to me and I won't bother going to see them again, but I can accept that they just weren't a band that I really found as appealing as I thought I might and that's OK.

Or maybe the whole evening was just undermined by a poor sound man and an inability of the band to realise how bad the balance was!

I'm hoping that my next visit to the Guildhall, to see Belle and Sebastian, will suit me better as the venue is certainly one I like.


How Will I Know?
Ready for Something
In The Morning
There's a Light
In My Mind
One By One
Say It Again
Northern Star
Wait For Me
Doubt It
Nightdriving (Acoustic)
Stay With Me
Junk Food Forever
Black Magic

PS This review - - seems to have a rather mixed view of a gig on this tour, too.