10cc: Hammersmith Odeon, London
FUNNY SENSATION to feel yourself part of a cold audience, a clammy and inhibiting grip on your gut. Lol Creme, old pro that he is, read the situation the moment he said “Evening” and got no response – “We’re on our own tonight lads,” he said half off mike. And that was the only drawback of an otherwise superlative display by one of the best bands in the world.
They played immaculately, they worked with enormous persistence at reaching the packed, but subdued, thousands in front of them and eventually after two hours in the salt mine they got there. You have to exclaim yet again “British audiences!” and wonder whey we are such a sadly constricted and hung-up crowd.
As ever their guitar work was superb, dominated by Eric’s high, urgent lines, and their singing solo or harmony met every demand of their elaborate compositions: Kevin Godley was in particularly sweet voice as the agonised lover of ‘Don’t Hang Up’ and the Parisienne ladies of ‘Une Nuit’.
They played their hits with as much verse as ever and a bold eight tracks from How Dare You with a fresh charm that even won me over to my unfavourite tracks ‘Lazy Ways’ and ‘I’m Mandy Fly Me’. They were excellent in every way musically but you may gather from this rather formal appreciation that the situation was focussing my attention on how they coped with that cold house.
In the days of ‘Donna’ you would read that they were a studio band who had no idea how to present themselves live. Well, I have simply never seen rock musicians so dynamically presenting humourous friendliness, confident and easy in the faith that the 3,000 people in the dark would eventually find it possible to act naturally, be themselves like the five guys stood inconspicuously under the battery of spotlights.
Lol was the C-in-C of this campaign. He started mock-bashful (“I just want to be your friend”), moved into the stand-up comedy (“Flu has given me a whole new perspective on LSD – Lem-Sip Diluted” got an actual round of applause), to the master-thespian interrupting the Olivier-as-Richard-the-Third-cum-Hitler bravura of ‘I Wanna Rule The World’ to bellow “Here I am speaking in siz accent and ve are touring Germany next month!” (at which Eric cracked up so vigourously you had to believe it was off the cuff).
And of course Eric introduced him as “Herr Creme” (get it?) and when they were claiming to be Londoners now Graham said, “I’m not, I’ve moved to Rochdale,” Lol “Roachdale you mean,” Graham, “Yeah, Rockdale.” Again it seemed spontaneous and that is the art for our sake whether it was or not.
And so the dead horse was flogged into having a good time. Their encores ‘I’m Not In Love’ and ‘Une Nuit A Paris’ at last met a fully receptive audience coming halfway, were beautiful, tragic and moved me deeply. One night with 10cc is like a year with any other band.
© Phil Sutcliffe, Sounds, 28 February 1976