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

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