Live: Faces

Having themselves a real good time: the Godfathers of Lad’s Rock reunite in support of Prostate Cancer UK.

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It’s been an implausibly long time coming, some might even say too long. In the forty years since the Faces last convened for a full set’s worth of material we’ve lost both Ronnie Lane and, more recently, Ian McLagan. There’s even a school of thought (online at least) that insists: ‘No Ronnie, No Mac, No Faces’. But the naysayers aren’t here.

Those that are here, meanwhile, are preposterously excited. And not just the fellas with regulation lapsed-mod, pineapple-esque, storm-damaged-thatch hairdos whose gait visibly diminishes from a swagger to a stagger with every gang-brayed chorus of Stay With Me.

Aside from these uniformly scarved Rod’n’Ron-alike lifers, incautiously necking Stellas at a rate more apposite to the ingestion of the piss-weak Party Sevens of their youth, there are phalanxes of curiously creosoted blondes of a certain vintage, seemingly oblivious to the universal truism that sparkling wine, moist turf and stilettos simply don’t mix.

Also present are the gentlemen of Primal Scream, hanging backstage in the Hurtwood Clubhouse surrounded by the superannuated polo set (truly a breed apart, outwardly unphased by the forces of metropolitan oikdom that’s descended upon them, if inwardly wondering how it can possibly be that so many people can simultaneously arrive at the same location without a single comb between them).

Bobby Gillespie is excited to such a preposterous cool-stripping extent that he is even seen to run. Not a sight you see every day. Nor indeed is Rock ‘N’ Horsepower’s support bill (all here, as are The Faces, in support of Prostate Cancer UK. Kenney Jones was diagnosed with the disease in 2013, but has since recovered) that includes Chris Jagger: no Mick, though not for the want of trying, Steve Harley: whitely bewhiskered to an almost festive degree, he comes up, sees us and, perhaps predictably, makes us smile, Midge Ure reclaims his ex-Lizzy status with a well received, pre-Vienna aperitif of The Boys Are Back In Town before Paul Carrack shoos off an entire polo field of grins with a single, depressingly middle-aged simper through The Living Years… Yeah, thanks for that.

Finally, Annie Nightingale takes to the stage to ramp up the ozone-crackling anticipation a notch further with a scene-setting DJ set prior to the arrival of the Faces. By now, normally unfazeable arbiters of cool are virtually losing their shit with excitement. As Annie spins Pool Hall Richard the boy Gillespie legs it to a vantage point where he can check that no one is onstage, meerkats for a moment, before sprinting back to the bar. Then, suddenly, on they shamble: the reason many of us dismissed Sherbet Dip Dabs and Black Jacks for booze and fags in the first place.

People don’t just like the Faces, they love them, and as soon as the knockabout chemistry starts to flow between Rod and Ronnie it’s clear why they enjoy such enduring affection. No other band has ever made the business of conjuring up rock‘n’roll mayhem seem like such casual, joyous and irresistibly infectious fun. Having felt their way through traditional set opener I Feel So Good by way of soundcheck, they unleash You Can Make Me Dance Sing Or Anything into pure, unfettered adulation.

A dedication to Ronnie Lane and Mac before Ooh La La, teetotal Woody derided by Rod for drinking tea, a towering I’d Rather Go Blind that reduces many present to tears, host Kenney’s thunderous (I Know) I’m Losing You drum solo, a victorious romp through the anthemic Stay With Me. A characteristic false-start-’n’-balls-up assault on Sweet Little Rock‘N’Roller, with Steve’s daughter Mollie Marriott on backing vocals, and they’re gone, leaving the privileged faithful dazzled, frazzled and roaring for more. “Until the tour…” caws corvine Ron as they take their leave.

If it happens, be there. Even at 60 per cent of their number, Rod’s Faces are nothing short of unmissable.

Ian Fortnam

Classic Rock’s Reviews Editor for the last 20 years, Ian stapled his first fanzine in 1977. Since misspending his youth by way of ‘research’ his work has also appeared in such publications as Metal Hammer, Prog, NME, Uncut, Kerrang!, VOX, The Face, The Guardian, Total Guitar, Guitarist, Electronic Sound, Record Collector and across the internet. Permanently buried under mountains of recorded media, ears ringing from a lifetime of gigs, he enjoys nothing more than recreationally throttling a guitar and following a baptism of punk fire has played in bands for 45 years, releasing recordings via Esoteric Antenna and Cleopatra Records.