“YOU CAN touch the magic tonight,” claimed guitarist Eric Stewart.
10cc performed at Wembley Arena in front of 10,000 fans, concluding a truly memorable week for the group – number one in the single charts, number eight in the album chart, a position in the American chart, the finale of a hugely successful British tour.
They played an impeccable two-hour set for their adulating fans, astutely mixing old hits with songs from their new LP, Bloody Tourists, and undoubtedly convinced sceptics that they are a group, not four sidemen propping original members Graham Gouldman and Stewart.
Each handsome member of the smart sextet contributed equal amounts of effort and craft.
The show was lavish, polished, stable. The sound was loud and beautifully mixed. Subtle lighting provided soothing visual variation, colourfully washing the cheerful musicians in alluring greens, bides and reds.
10 cc were perfect!
Perfect by their own standards – standards that should be SMASHED! For they soften our minds.
The group over-excitedly opened with ‘Wall Street Shuffle’, a once-charming ditty sterilised and deodorised, the harder and heavier parts bluntly emphasised for easy maximum effect. Other ‘hits’ were rendered over-developed and functional: ‘I’m Mandy Fly Me’, ‘The Things We Do For Love’ (or “the things we do for hits” as Stewart discreetly switched it, with cynical double bluffing), ‘Good Morning Judge’, ‘Art For Art’s Sake’.
Hits for hits’ sake were mixed in this performance with new album cuts to me even less attractive, even more sterile and laboured.
No mistakes, no naturalism, everything symmetrical, as meticulously laid out as the positioning of the speakers and potted plants at either side of the stage. Poppy, choppy heavy metal with gratuitous fanciness and intricacy. Popular muzak, the curse of the late ’70s.
During the show, in front of 10,000 consciousnesses (stop and think about that), spot the naivity, hollowness….sexism?
“We’d like to play one of our big hits,” Stewart haltingly gushed. “We like big hits. Kate Bush has got big hits. Linda Ronstadt has got greatest hits.” One example of an inane, clumsy attempt to be chummy.
Notice the gross self-satisified acceptance of the position the group have been placed in by an affluent, easily and willingly moulded audience.
It’s all conditioning…Cool air conditioning to make us feel ‘comfortable’.
Half way through the set they delightedly play the lethargic shuffle ‘Dreadlock Holiday’, introducing it by modestly thanking the faithful for putting it where it is. At the top.
Everyone roars in appreciation. At what, I’m not quite sure.
All through this ‘big hit’ the audience clap and respond appreciably more than they did before it, while afterwards the atmosphere systematically gets them drunk and proceedings build up to a peak of acclaim prior, during and after the end song of the set proper, ‘I’m Not In Love’.
This latter almost psychedelic, almost sensuous, impressionist, fascinating song surfaced excitingly out of the rest of the impotence despite its sentimentality and coatings of sugar.
But sadly the sextet never exploit its tantalising speculations, and it drifts and pulsates, threatening, as turn of the century Russian composer Scriabin wildly anticipated, to dissolve into an aroma!
10cc’s ultimate lack of imagination – beyond technical skill and versatility – was to me apparent at the end of ‘I’m Not In Love’, where improvisation appeared to be the obvious development, with pathways begging exploration.
Instead they safely and dully extinguished the piece.
Compare this to the finely detailed extended jam of unbelievable cowardice and repetition at the end of ‘Arts For Arts Sake’.
10cc. Complacent. Trivial. Perfection itself.
© Paul Morley, New Musical Express, 30 September 1978