The marketing for this World Tour by UK art-rock legends 10CC placed them as “the link between The Beatles and Gorillaz”. I am not so sure about Gorillaz but 10CC definitely opened the ears (and heads) of every art-pop band that followed, from XTC to the Arcade Fire.

In many ways a product of the early 1970s when commerciality and epic experimentation in many genres – jazz, pop, rock, even country – seemed to co-exist in a far happier state than at any time before or since, 10CC continued to stretch that which constituted “pop” music into increasingly unfamiliar shapes – an experiment begun by The Beatles in the equally heady mid-1960s. And just as The Beatles made great things from the frisson between bitter Lennon and sweet McCartney, 10CC had similar sparks flying off their four songwriters: the artistically restless Kevin Godley and Lol Creme, and the pop-worshipping Eric Stewart (Stewart had been in the UK hit group, The Mindbenders) and Graham Gouldman (who had written hits such as the Yardbirds’ “Heart Full of Soul” and The Hollies’ “Bus Stop”). Add in enormous (and sardonic) wit, instrumental smarts, fearless genre-hopping and a public (like The Beatles’ fans) who lapped up anything the band gave them, and you are left with a body of work that is one of the treasures of post-war music. 

I was at a loss as to why 10CC had chosen a string of smaller venues for the Sydney leg of this tour rather than one of the stadium/rock-barns, but as I settled back into my seat at Marrickville’s Factory Theatre, I was blessing the fact. The production and sound at the Factory has always been excellent and tonight was no different.

Beginning with the timely spit-in-the-eye rock and roll piece “The Wall Street Shuffle”, the 5-piece band was right on the money (no pun intended) from note one. Through the intensely complex “I’m Mandy (Fly Me)” and the McCartneyesque “The Things We Do For Love” to the richly sardonic rocker “Art For Art’s Sake” they handled the acrobatics of each song with ease – negotiating the tempo-changes, tricky vocal harmonies and micro-dynamics so perfectly and transparently that no-one (apart from the jaw-dropped musos in the audience) noticed (as it should be in pop).

A mini-symphony such as “Feel The Benefit” from their hit 1977 album Deceptive Bends actually has so many sections and recapitulations that at one point half the band was fading out one section at one tempo in one key, while the other half was fading in another section of an entirely different flavour (don’t try this at home kids). Not that any of this virtuoso crap made a jot of difference to most of the audience – which, as a capital-P ‘Pop’ group, 10CC never intended. Leave all that widdly-worship to the jazz cats and the prog rockers – this pop was about hooks, luscious Beatles’-style harmonies and music built to thrill and uplift.

The only original member of the original fantastic four left – Godley and Creme left in 1976 and Eric Stewart in 1995 – Graham Gouldman was joined by guitarist Rick Fenn and Paul Burgess who have been members of 10CC’s touring band since the mid 70’s (almost all studio work was done by the original four) and keys player Mike Stevens. On vocal is the remarkable Mick Wilson, who handled all the Eric Stewart song vocals and well as the higher falsetto parts – his lead vocal on the Zappa-ish doo-wop pastiche “Donna” (10CC’s first hit in 1972) was something to behold. To cover all the musical parts of their mosaic-like arrangements there was a lot of instrument-swapping and to-ing and fro-ing.

Much much more than a nostalgia act, 10CC (who’s last album was 1995’s almost ignored  Mirror Mirror) have had a lasting effect on pop music of all stripes, and – judging by the Factory’s mix-and-match crowd – still command a huge respect and love for their work. There were mums and dads here for the hits, intense muso-types here for the musical gymnastics, bespectacled art-pop nuts here for the wit and wisdom of Gouldman and co.

Like The Beatles – in fact like any enduring art-oriented act – 10CC are simultaneously both inclusive and exclusive, sweet-and-easy and clever-clever all at once. Their popularity hinges on that balance and, ironically, it is a commercial balance that only a true artist can hold.

Photos by Katja Liebing – see her site here

Published March 2012 on liveguide.com.au

Advertisements
Comments

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s