10cc: Odeon, Birmingham

IF 10cc HAVEN’T yet clambered back onto the pedestal they managed in their original incarnations, they have at least pulled together all the necessary elements for a top class rock and roll show. Just how good that show may turn out to be will probably depend on the confidence they may get from the success of their gruelling world tour of which this gig was one of the early laps.

Stewart and Gouldman’s first tour without Godley and Creme was a slightly tense affair, the name-carrying duo feeling the need to prove something in the wake of the split.

Now they have a band that’s worthy of them. It may be much the same as their last but this time there’s a proper group feel about the whole band. It’s no longer Eric and Graham plus backing band; everybody gets a full participating role, none more so than keyboard player Duncan Mackay from Cockney Rebel whose arrival has given the band a much broader musical base from which to operate.

All of which seems to have given Eric Stewart a new lease of life on stage. He looked to be enjoying himself which is more than can be said for the last time I saw him. His guitar playing sparkled and his voice — aided by some superb mixing which was so good that during ‘I’m Not In Love’ you couldn’t tell which were the live voices and which were the tapes — was in great shape.

The show — and there’s more than two hours of it — is centred heavily around the new album, Bloody Tourists. As the album isn’t out yet that meant a lot of new and unfamiliar material for the audience to grapple with but it didn’t seem to perturb them unduly.

On a first listen the new songs have a greater immediacy about them than you might expect. Whether they have lasting qualities as well remains to be seen. Several of them were reminiscent of some of the chirpy pop songs that Messrs Stewart and Gouldman were coming up with back in the Sixties although they’ve obviously been coated with several layers of 10cc sophistication. ‘Take These Chairs’, ‘Last Night’ and the new single ‘Dreadlocks Holiday’ all had these streaks of the past running through them.

A couple Of the new songs show a depressing slide towards bland mediocrity — ‘Red In My Bed’ sounded rather like an inept parody of themselves, and ‘Tokyo’ was an insipid ballad with surprisingly banal lyrics (still, at least the Japanese should understand them, which may be the object of the exercise).

But on the credit side there was ‘From Rochdale To Ocho Rios’ a chirpy calypso with a solid centre that takes a witty look at the package holiday industry and those who make use of it, and ‘Everything You Want To Know About ****’ which ranks with anything Stewart and Gouldman have come up with before.

The set got off to a powerful start, ‘Wall Street Shuffle’ hitting the audience with sledgehammer force via a very loud but well mixed PA system. It dipped in the middle with a succession of new songs and while the band’s looser approach to older songs like ‘Art For Art’s Sake’ and ‘I’m Mandy Fly Me’ helped breathe new life into them, they were sometimes extended into long and rambling solos that ultimately added nothing to the songs.

There’s still plenty to work on in the show — the between-song chat can still be a trifle wince-inducing for example — but perhaps the real changes will only come when Stewart and Gouldman feel adventurous enough to start taking a few risks once more.

© Hugh FielderSounds, 16 September 1978

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