THE MUSIC IS exactly as you’d expect it really. More or less.
The story goes that somewhere around the release of Sheet Music 10cc suddenly woke up to the fact that, if they just got a good stage act together, they were on the way to rock’n’roll apotheosis.
A stage act was accordingly… well they way I hear it a stage act was suggested to 10cc. And they played it. It was awful: exploding barrage balloons of heavy-ied up versions of the album numbers. And that was the musical disaster that closed the Olympia Rock Proms in the summer of 1974.
It was somewhere around this time last year that I saw 10cc again. At the Hammersmith Odeon, in fact, everything was much, much better musically. Presumably realizing that they’d committed an almost classic goof in working too hard – and to its detriment – on the live show, they opted for what had been the answer all the time: play it just like the records and you’ll keep everybody happy. And they did. It was a great show, I remember, that, going on the excellence of the craftsmanship involved alone, placed it only a couple of notches below last year’s Who and Marley gigs.
10cc may be strainers and soarers against the dark ages etc., I remember thinking, but where they leap ahead of that sweeping-back-the-boundaries-of-music schtick is an apparent full understanding – and, more important, confidence – in their own abilities as players and writers.
There were quite a lot of tapes used, of course, and ‘Rubber Bullets’ as the encore. Last year they made a crass attempt at stretching it out with some BOOOO-GIE guitar parts, and this worked and got all the audience on their feet. The only problem being that once the audience was on their feet they realized that there was no point whatsoever in standing and getting down as ‘Rubber Bullets’ just doesn’t work as that kind of number.
It was the same encore this year.
See, I really suspect that 10cc have perhaps never fully understood what live work is all about and what their onstage roles should be.
It really is curious – or possibly not curious whatsoever – that despite the multi-dimensions of their music, the whole 10cc vibe is so one-dimensional.
Eric is certainly the sensitive and artistic one. Girls like him. One even fooled the Sturico people and leapt on stage to kiss him at the end of ‘I’m Not In Love’. Eric looked genuinely touched. He appears to take more of the lead guitar-work than Lol, though when it’s his turn our Lol is no slouch. Our Lol has quite a bit of stage banter with Eric but I have this little suspicion that Eric knows full well that Lol’s wacky, zany fun-packed repartee is as excruciatingly embarrassing as it is.
Anyway, lovable Lol is therefore obliged to trade repartee with Graham Gouldman (who doesn’t look sensitive and artistic – more like a Harry Fenton salesman in fact). So Lol becomes for the first few numbers of the set the Ringo of the band, until you can’t stand to hear his voice ever again. Which is when the real Ringo of 10cc gets into his.
Stepping from behind the drums – where else? – in black t-shirt and pants and looking very hairy indeed, Kevin Godley looks like he’s just wandered in off the kibbutz.
Now Kevin is apparently the only member of 10cc – well, alright, Eric has some too in a way – with any true sense of stage presence. The guy is quite simply a great natural actor. With one of the most interesting deadpan faces in rock today!! And so no doubt this is why – apart from the rather obvious table and phone props he has for ‘Don’t Hang Up’ – his role is so cut back.
As the natural frontman in the band Kevin is quite simply not allowed to assume what is obviously his natural role.
Boys, forever you are making things difficult for yourselves.
Ah yes: music nearly as good as last year but not quite. Few tracks from How Dare You. Not really cold and stiff but verging on it occasionally. Okay Eric?
And the girl in the row in front was overheard to be “bitterly disappointed”.
Wonder why, ehh?
© Chris Salewicz, New Musical Express, 28 February 1976