Absent from the American live scene since the late ’70s, the British pop-art band played its first New York date in 35 years at the Concert Hall this past July. With a 40-year career and 30 million albums sold worldwide, the current 10cc lineup, led by co-founder Graham Gouldman, has been together for a decade and recently toured Australia, Japan and Europe, getting their chops up for a hot NYC summer night.
Originally comprised of Gouldman, Eric Stewart, Kevin Godley and Lol Crème, 10cc’s current touring band is Gouldman (vocals, guitar, bass), Rick Fenn (guitars, vocals, bass), Paul Burgess (drums, percussion), Mick Wilson (vocals, guitars, keyboards, percussion), and Mike Stevens (keyboards, guitar, sax, bass, vocals). Paul has worked with 10cc from the beginning and Rick joined the live band in the mid-’70s.
As an innovative way to warm up the crowd, Gouldman kicked off the show with a half hour acoustic set reprising his biggest hits originally penned for other artists. From the opening chords of “Heart Full of Soul” by the Yardbirds, the mostly old-school crowd was transported back to the ’60s. To keep things interesting, Gouldman brought out different members of 10cc to accompany him on some of his other classics: “Bus Stop” and “Look Through Any Window” by the Hollies, and “No Milk Today” by Herman’s Hermits (dig those trippy lyrics).
Gouldman then flashed forward and back at the same time for “Daylight,” a new song from his upcoming solo album Love and Work. Penned as a tribute to the late Andrew Gold (his partner in the band Wax), the tune boasts gorgeous harmonies (10cc were always known for their innovate vocal techniques, present lineup included) buoyed by ukulele and 12 string guitar, while lyrics like “I really thought these days would last forever” struck an emotional chord in the churchly hall.
Another nugget was unearthed with the Yardbirds classic “For Your Love,” complete with bongos and the whole audience clapping in time with the bridge. “That was recorded in 1965, a very good year indeed,” Gouldman said to a standing ovation. “This year is good, too,” he said with a smile, launching into “Memory Lane,” another satisfying new number that wound down the solo set. Despite the whole set being unplugged, the front of Gouldman’s brown button-up was bathed in sweat as he took a bow, whetting the audience’s appetite for the full 10cc treatment.
After a brief intermission, the lights dimmed and the full band tore into “The Second Sitting for the Last Supper,” followed by the 1974 hit “The Wall Street Shuffle,” written long before “occupy” became a dirty word in the Big Apple. Rounding out the opening trifecta was “The Things We Do for Love,” one of the group’s best-known tracks. For “Good Morning Judge,” Gouldman switched to slide guitar, and the electric stuff was so powerful you could feel a rumble in the pews.
With three number one singles and five top ten albums in their native UK, it was impossible to ignore 10cc’s influence on the bands that came after them. Close your eyes and “Life Is a Minestrone” sounds like a dead ringer for one of Squeeze’s best, with a beat unmistakably like Elvis Costello’s “Pump It Up.” The extra percussion and Fenn’s ethereal outro echo guitar was one of the show’s highlights.
With the 10cc of the 21st century being mostly multi-instrumentalists, it was refreshing to see the members not only switch instruments but play completely different parts during the songs. On the Dave Edmunds/Rockpile-esque “Silly Love,” Fenn set down the guitar during the bridge, walking over to the keys to give them a good squiggle.
For the next number, Gouldman announced that it was originally recorded as a B-side for their first album, but instead became their first single. This was 1972’s doo-woppy “Donna,” complete with a mobile ringtone sample replacing the prehistoric old telephone in the original. And to return the favor borrowing from all these American influences, the proto-New Wave “Sand in My Face” sounded like a cross between the B-52s and the Beach Boys.
Now it was time for the centerpiece. As the lights went down, the keyboard and vocal harmonies swirled together to conjure “I’m Not in Love.” Played more than 5 million times on U.S. radio since the mid-’70s and appearing in a score of films and TV shows, the song remains one of the most atmospheric, bittersweet odes ever laid to tape. Closing the set was the reggae hit “Dreadlock Holiday,” which sprung everyone out of their seats.
After a brief pause, the band returned to gather around a single mike, belting out a fantastic a capella reading of “Donna.” Instead of appearing bored having to hear the song again, the audience gave rewarded the quintet with a standing ovation. With one more tune left in them, 10cc closed shop with the 1973 hit “Rubber Bullets.” Awash in echo, Mike Stevens turned in a breathy alto sax solo that literally sent everyone home dancing in the aisles, hoping their next New York visit won’t be another 35 years in the making.
Visit 10cc online at www.10ccworld.com.
Article and photos by Justin Tedaldi
Visit Justin’s National Music Q&A page for Examiner.com here.