10cc at The Symphony Hall, Birmingham, UK – 16th February 2015

Posted by Zyllah Moranne-Brown on Monday Feb 16, 2015 Under 70s, Pop-rock, Prog Rock, Rock

Gig review by Zyllah Moranne-Brown with photography by Ken Harrison

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1974. There was a hung parliament; Conservatives were ousted by Labour. ABBA won Eurovision with ‘Waterloo’. West Germany won the World Cup. The Rubik’s Cube was invented. Ceefax was started by the BBC. The “rumble in the jungle” as Muhammad Ali knocked out George Foreman. The Birmingham Pub Bombings, still painfully remembered today. And anything digital, internet, iThingy was years off. 10cc released their vinyl album ‘Sheet Listing’ to play on a record player on their journey to huge success. And 40 odd years on, in the luxurious Symphony Hall we’re here to take a peek into their hugely creative musical journey…

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Formed in the early 70s – this art-rock band hailed from Stockport. Initially there was four – Grahan Gouldman, Eric Stewart, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme. 10cc had ‘two sides’ the commercial songwriting team of Stewart and Goldman and the more experimental Godley and Creme – but joining forces, these multi-talented, multi-instrumentalists went on to have some massive hits – eleven Top 10’s, including three No 1s  ‘Rubber Bullets’, ‘Dreadlock Holiday’, and ‘I’m Not In Love’, which has been played over five million times on US radio, it’s no surprise the band has sold 15 million albums in the UK alone.

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Godley and Creme left way back in ’76, Stewart in the mid nineties – so it it is left to Graham Gouldman to take the 10cc mantle to where it is today. The current line up features founder Gouldman (bass, guitars, vocals), Rick Fenn (lead guitar, vocals, bass) and Paul Burgess (drums, percussion) – both who joined after the departure of Goldey and Creme, Mick Wilson (vocals, percussion, guitar, keyboards) and Mike Stevens (keyboards, guitar, bass, sax, vocals).

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“The current band is as near as you’re ever going to get to hearing the perfect 10cc” says Gouldman. “Hit after hit after hit. It’s relentless. We show no mercy.”

10cc haven’t issues a new album in nearly twenty years but they remain regularly on the touring scene – and in 2012 to celebrate the band’s formation the released the retrospective ‘Tenology’.

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So tonight, the first part of the set is: ‘Sheet Music’; the second album by the band. Released in 1974 it yielded hits  ‘The Wall Street Shuffle’ and “Silly Love” with the album reaching No.9 in the UK. Goldman thinks it is the best album 10cc ever produced – he writes: “Our best album, epitomising what 10cc was all about. Unique songwriting and production.”

So as peeps take to their seats, slight confusion by me (as the row starts from seat 5), local 70s legends ELO blast out from the speakers to get us into the mood.  Tonight’s gig is an early start – band due on stage from 7.30. To a track, the ‘curtains’ on the large 5 split screens at the back of the stage part and 10cc take to the stage. We’re off – the first set is indeed their 1974 ‘Sheet Listing’ album -played in track order;  first up is ‘Wall Street Shuffle’ – with all the signature 10cc harmonised vocals. You can already see how 10cc inspired so many, (Squeeze come to mind) with their pop-art rock, leftfield, quirky yet commercial, quippy, prog-rock. A big cheer from the polite audience and Gouldman introduces the first part of the set, and as they go into track two – ‘The Worst Band in the World’ we can already hear that this venue is perfect for their entirely complex songs played in intricate detail.

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‘Hotel’, with full light show and blazing green lasers, show us the eclectic mix of inspiration 10cc experimented with in their day – every music inspiration and the kitchen sink chucked into the lyrical and musical mix, then mashed through a blender and turned upside down. Way before anything remotely digital, it really shouldn’t work – but it does. Goldman acknowledges the writers behind each track, regardless that members left the band decades ago. ‘Old Wild Men’ written by Godley and Creme in their twenties, about what it would be like to do this in their sixties; a quip from Gouldman who finds himself, now in his sixties doing precisely this. ‘Clockwork Creep’ written in a time when clocks went tic-to and way before 9/11 is about time and downing airplanes. To accompany the exceptional musical and vocal talent of every band member – the lighting is great – and quirky graphics fill the screens.

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Now for pause – they have to as it’s the end of side one – and when this album was released, it was vinyl, and time to turn it over. ‘Silly Love’ we’re back with rock ’n roll. This album was written in a era of experimentation – you can see the inspiration of The Beatles and their psychedelic moments, see how Queen were pushing boundaries to symphonies, the harmonisation inspired by the Beach Boys. It must have been an exciting time for music, and something, that in some ways the music industry has lost over the years. ‘Somewhere in Hollywood’ appearing on the screens, in monotone footage, and with lead vocals, is Kevin Godley. He may have left 10cc nearly 40 years ago – but it’s a really nice touch, an art-house video and song – wouldn’t be far from a Queen (in their hey-day) song. And the end of the track Godley waves from the screen and walks off, acknowledged by the current 10cc line-up.

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‘Baron Samedi’ written by Goldman and Stewart was inspired by a Bond villain (he thinks – it was a long time ago), is followed by a Godley and Creme track – ‘Sacro-Iliac’ – about the fact the writers couldn’t dance – so they made a dance up. A country vibe, with that 70s Coca Cola advert song, intermixed the Beach Boys.

And now to the interlude – as at 8.15 we get a twenty minute break. The next set brings us hits a-plenty. Tonight’s audience is indeed older, and we a decade younger  but we know all the songs and all the lyrics – these tracks have become so classic. First up ‘Thing’s We Do For Love’ – and we’re singing. The band are now suited and booted as they take us into ‘Good Morning Judge’; this is AOR rock 10cc. Both these tracks are written by the commercial side of 10cc – Goldman and Stewart.

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Next up ‘I’m Mandy Fly Me’ – on the screens we float above the clouds, this is 10cc’s ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ and we float away with the atmosphere and admire the total complexity of the entire multi-layered song. Coming back from our trance – the next one was inspired by what a DJ said on a radio show – ‘Life is a Minestrone.’ We’re singing; the crowd are loving it.

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And as waves break on a beach, and a lone guitar sounds out, we’re into ‘Arts for Arts Sake’ clearly an inspiration for a later edition of Genesis. We’re tripping and floating. The title was taken from a saying that Gouldman’s father used to say. ‘Feel the Benefit’ has a slight psychedelic take, rolls on and on, we’re in prog-rock territory and we watch the band members with fascination. Each one is a multi-instrumentalist – no individual ‘just’ plays one instrument, Wilson during this track scoots between guitar, keyboards, multiple percussion instruments and and take lead vocals.  Another inspiration from words said by Gouldman’s father – ‘The Dean and I’ from their first 10cc album.

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And then to the track that’s been played over five million times on USA radio. ‘I’m Not In Live’. Lit up with streams of lights from the floor, the track is delivered exquisitely beautifully – the hairs raise on our arms. Big boys don’t cry.  Gorgeous rendition. And to compete the set we have ‘Dreadlock Holiday’ and to go with the lyrics – we don’t like cricket, we love it; we don’t like reggae, we love it; we don’t like Birmingham, we love it. To a big cheer.

And to an encore with a twist. They’re going to be singing their first single from 1972 – ‘Donna’. Acapella. As 10cc go all barber-shop – four of the protagonists deliver perfect harmonies in a perfect yet comedic manner,; ‘Oh Dionna, Oh Donna, Donna I Love…” with drummer Burgess completing the end of the song in a deep, Brummie dialect ‘Yow.’

And to complete the set – ‘Rubber Bullets’ crowd on their feet, band having a blast.

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Tonight’s set may end at 9.45 – but that’s not it for the band. After the gig they’re doing a meeting and greet, where they are quite happy to say hi, have their pictures taken, and sign pretty much anything (within reason).

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10cc are a journey through time, space and motion – a total musical journey. In some ways this really shouldn’t work – songs from four decades ago, only one remaining original band member. But no – this is no retro tour – the whole band thoroughly enjoy their musical journey, this band of brothers are immensely well tight; a masterful performance that complex symphony orchestra’s would admire. 10cc were out of time, their tracks are not outdated – and the love and care they continue to perform them, gives a truly impressive show. And tonight we have the luxury of one of the best venues in the country to showcase their music sound.

In the words of just one of their hits: We didn’t like 10cc tonight. We loved them.

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Set I: Sheet Listing
Wall Street Shuffle
The Worst Band in the World
Hotel
Old Wild Men
Clockwork Creep
Silly Love
Somewhere in Hollywood
Baron Samedi
The Sacro-Iliac
Oh Effendi

Set 2: Greatest Hits
The Things We Do for lOve
Good Morning Judge
I’m Mandy Fly Me
Life is a Minestrone
Art for Art’s Sake
Feel the Benefit
The Dean and I
I’m Not in Love
Dreadlock Holiday

Encore:
Donna (acapella version)
Rubber Bullets

2 Responses to “10cc at The Symphony Hall, Birmingham, UK – 16th February 2015”

  1. Richard Says:

    Fantastic concert. These guys are musical geniuses. The sound they produced was unbelievable. My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed it – one of the best concerts we’ve been to..

  2. Peter Stokes Says:

    What a performance !!
    It would take something special to improve on even if the other three original members were in attendance .
    One word describes them!!!! CLASS.

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