10cc at the Paladium, London - live review

Boisterous set of all the hits from Stockport proggers

10CC on stage, mid song
(Image: © Kevin Nixon)

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The Greatest Hits And More tour from 10cc climaxes at a venue whose history is almost as rich as their own. Among the faultless choices of non-hits is Old Wild Men, a forlorn ballad from 1974’s Sheet Music. They introduce it with a wry smile: the song’s a melancholy musing on a band who won’t pack it in, no matter how aged they get. “They’ll play and play to pass the time…” Yet with art rock royalty 10cc there’s always a witty self-awareness involved, and their energy and verve makes a mockery of mortality. To hear this brilliant, boisterous set list is to be filled to the brim with jumping jacks and joie de vivre.

Of course there’s the debate of how truly this qualifies as 10cc, without Eric Stewart, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme. Graham Gouldman has toured this line-up for several years now, gradually winning approval with the quality and attention to detail of the shows. We’ll always wish the original quartet could reunite, but with historic feuds and factions that make Yes look uncomplicated, that’s not happening. If you accept that and just embrace the music, there are few more enjoyable shows around.

Gouldman, a well-preserved septuagenarian, is at the centre, playing bass, guitar and (some) vocals. The band are superb, with Rick Fenn’s guitar (a feature since ’76) and all-rounder Mick Wilson’s falsetto stealing highlights. Wilson can be a bit West End musical, but he sure can sing. After the tripartite prog epic Feel The Benefit, Gouldman confides that he first heard the title phrase from his mum, “Who’s now 98. And here tonight.” We applaud, as we do when Fenn hails master craftsman and writer Gouldman as “the guv’nor. The grand fromage”.

The evening blasts open with a salvo of some of the greatest art pop this planet has produced: The Wall Street Shuffle, Art For Art’s Sake, Life Is A Minestrone. With impeccable multi-part harmonies and tempo changes which turn on a sixpence, there’s romance with a twist in I’m Mandy Fly Me and I’m Not In Love, while the hall is bathed in a wave of pirouetting white lights. These songs and productions startled us with avant-garde innovation back then, and they’re as timeless as they are transcendent.

If the rock-out of Rubber Bullets or cod-reggae of Dreadlock Holiday are sops to populism, the melodrama of Somewhere In Hollywood – featuring Godley singing via video – is a contrapuntal canvas of literacy and pathos. There’s also a scorching Silly Love and an a capella Donna.

If 10cc always had too many ideas to be easily pinned, still their legend grows, and Gouldman’s warm fanning of its flame does it no harm at all. This music fancies living forever.

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.