10cc – Aotea Centre November 10, 2015

IMG_3414In the early 1970s, as they managed their transition from anonymous churners-out of slick but disposable pop and into a coherent band in their own right, 10cc produced some of the most intelligent, engaging music of the decade. Their pigeonhole-unfriendly music, encompassing straight ahead rockers like Art For Art’s Sake, typically written by Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman, on the one hand, and Lol Creme and Kevin Godley’s more experimentally artistic numbers such as Clockwork Creep, was the product of four extraordinarily talented songwriters and multi-instrumentalists who would toil and labour obsessively over single tracks of elaborately complex songs.

Of the original four members, only Graham Gouldman remains. He’s touring what is, essentially, his own tribute band, playing a curious set.

Tonight’s show at the ASB Theatre in Auckland’s Aotea Centre began with a half-dozen-song-long opening act performed by Gouldman and his backing band on acoustic guitars, and it was a strong reminder that, long before he was a member of 10CC, Gouldman was a songwriter of no insignificant talent or range. Gouldman, usually known just for his work with 10cc, wrote a clutch of songs for the Hollies; tonight’s Look Through Any Window, all jangly, snappy guitars, was classic Hollies, but a Gouldman composition. His own recent material was a little weaker, but he more than redeemed himself with set-closer For Your Love, a song he wrote for The Yardbirds, who recorded it with Eric Clapton. An important song for Gouldman, he told us, it was “the first song I wrote that became a hit.”

It was also the first song he played this evening that deviated significantly from the four-men-playing-acoustic-guitars-in-unison arrangement that offered little meaningful variety; the bongos helped, and this was a quite excellent rendition.

Half an hour later, the show proper started, Gouldman centre-stage with a baby-blue Jazz bass. With, obviously, no new album to promote, this was a straight-ahead, crowd-pleasing, greatest-hits show, and, oh, did it please the crowd. All the obvious hits were there — the band opened with The Wall Street Shuffle, they trotted through Life Is A Minestrone, Good Morning Judge became a slightly countrified stomp with Gouldman exchanging his bass for a Telecaster to pick out the riff. I’m Not In Love was, of course, one of the main attractions, percussionist Eric Wilson handling the vocals and offering a passable approximation of Eric Stewart’s singular voice in the process. Feel The Benefit was the centrepiece of the performance, showcasing Gouldman’s band. Rick Fenn, playing quite superb guitar, was perhaps the standout performer of the evening, his solos almost Gilmouresque in their fluidity in songs like Silly Love. Donna, the first song of the encore, was sung in “a very, very special way” — a cappella — with Wilson struggling, slightly, to reach some of the higher notes.

And then there’s Graham Gouldman himself. The only remaining member of the original quartet, Gouldman keeps the 10cc banner flying, and at times on stage he comes across almost as the curator of the 10cc museum.

69 years old now, he looks, in his high-waisted grey slacks, more like a bank manager on a rainy weekend than a rock star, and he explains his songs as much as he introduces them. But he plays a mean bass still — Feel The Benefit’s genre-hopping found room for a traditional bass solo from Gouldman and just a little funky slapping, too. He took vocal duties from time to time, his nasal Salford drone used to good effect on possibly the most popular song of the evening, 10cc’s last number one single, the only slightly racist Dreadlock Holiday, Wilson being detained on cowbell duty. The audience, largely middle-aged and, to judge from the accents I heard around the bar, largely from the north of England, didn’t care about the song’s questionable racial politics, and danced in the aisles instead.

Gouldman is, as has been noted, the only member of the original band still performing. The question must, then, be asked — is this truly 10cc, or is it Graham Gouldman’s solo band? Drummer Paul Burgess played on 1977’s Deceptive Bends, but was absent on the band’s first four records. Gouldman introduced guitarist Rick Fenn as “a long-standing member of the 10cc band,” an odd way to refer to his outfit unless he has doubts about the legitimacy of his act. Fenn, in turn, introduced Gouldman as the writer of many of the songs we heard tonight, but a good chunk of the setlist were Godley & Creme compositions, the only link between tonight’s performance and the original recording being the bass player.

But who cares, in the end? Graham Gouldman was part of the creation of every song we heard tonight, and he and his band performed them with effortless skill. The Things We Do For Love, Rubber Bullets, I’m Mandy Fly Me — great songs all. And the audience left happy. What more can one ask of a show?

Steve McCabe

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Steve McCabe:

10cc Set list

The Wall Street Shuffle

The Things We Do For Love

Good Morning Judge

I’m Mandy Fly Me

Life Is A Minestrone

Art For Art’s Sake

Clockwork Creep

Silly Love

Feel The Benefit

The Dean & I

From Rochdale to Ocho Rios

I’m Not In Love

Dreadlock Holiday



Rubber Bullets