Monday, 16 November 2015

10CC in concert

From time to time I get emails from my dad with a band name in the subject line. It usually means one of two things:
  1. Dad is asking whether I have a particular CD that he'd like to borrow and, if not, whether I'd like to buy it for him.
  2. Dad is suggesting an upcoming concert that I should buy tickets for us to go to.
Last week's email from Dad said 10CC. This time, however, there was a slight twist. Dad had been given two tickets to 10CC in concert in Wellington and wondered if I'd like to go with him. That makes a nice change!

I delightedly announced my news to those around me. Here's how the general conversation went:
Me: "I'm going to 10CC on Friday!"
Them: "What does that mean?"
Me: "They're an English rock band from the 70s ..."
Them: "What do they sing?"
Me: "*Play* - what do they play."
Them: "Do they sing I'm Not In Love? I like that song."
Me: "There's so much more to 10CC than I'm Not In Love."
Them: "Oh, that's right! They also sing the cricket song!"
Me: *shakes head and sighs*
On to the show. We were promised an opening acoustic set of songs written by front man Graham Gouldman that were performed by other bands in the 1960s - something I was really looking forward to. The lights came up to a Gouldman acoustic guitar solo version of Pamela Pamela by The Mindbenders. Band members were progressively introduced and they each joined the stage with an acoustic guitar in hand until there was a full compliment of four guitarists, playing beautiful versions of classics such as A Heart Full of Soul and For Your Love (The Yardbirds), No Milk Today (Herman's Hermits) and Bus Stop and Look Through Any Window (The Hollies). Gouldman described the circumstances behind the songs and how they came about, the common element being good storytelling as the starting point for each song. Perfect harmonies rounded out a feelgood set of happy vibes.

The 10CC concert set list itself was a well polished selection of the band's biggest hits along with a few of their more obscure numbers. For a band renown for their top notch studio production, they managed to authentically replicate their sound on stage without jeopardising any of their 'live' vibe. One of my favourites was played early on, a detuned version of The Things We Do For Love that still featured great harmonies but just didn't spark as much in a lower key. An extended version of Art for Art's Sake was a highlight, complete with fades in all the right places and great bass solos.

The true test, though, was whether the band could pull off I'm Not In Love with its gazillion overdubbed backing tracks live on stage. I'm almost disappointed to report (refer to above conversation) that it was absolutely note perfect. Not a single harmonic gap and a perfect balance between the backing track and live performance. Damn! I really didn't want to like it so much but this song was totally impressive, even for this cynical musician. The crowd were on their feet for an over-pumped version of Dreadlock Holiday and the extremely fun Rubber Bullets, which I'm proud to say I still remember absolutely every word of and sang all the way home.

For me, the secret to 10CC's appeal is well crafted storytelling coupled with excellent instrumentation and production, performed seemingly with ease by skilled multi-instrumentalists. I was surprised to see a single bass guitar makes it way around three different sized band members. Sharing a guitar, let alone a bass would be sacrilege in any other band! Ditto sharing a mic between four singers harmonising an a capella song (Donna as the first encore). The sound mix was really on form.

What a great concert! Fantastic musicians performing an excellent back catalogue, great company (Dad) and a happy trip down musical memory lane.

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