As a lifelong Faces fan, I can’t tell you how excited I was in anticipation of this gig. After thoroughly enjoying seeing Mac play his greatest hits at the Gateshead SummerTyne Americana Festival a couple of years ago, I easily persuaded a few friends to come along with me to the den of iniquity known as the Jumping Hot Club, to see one of their heroes.
When we arrived, it was no surprise to see the upstairs bar of Cluny II already full to the gills with smartly attired, fulsome-figured men. Many had the last vestiges of a feather cut, still favoured by Rodney Stewart esq.
With no support act, the very dapper looking McLagan made his way onto the small stage for an 8:30 start. And, after a short introduction, he opened with his ode to Ronnie Lane, the charming “Hello Old Friend”, which was received with a roar of recognition from the 100 or more fans packed into the venue.
As the cheers died down at the end, the bass player from the Bump Band, John Notarthomas, joined the silver haired piano player. Mac then introduced the next song as having a sing-a-long chorus — “sha la la la” — which excited the crowd. But, this song was actually by the Bump Band and not the Small Faces’ “Sha La La Lee”. The crowd went along with it and joined in when necessary, but only halfheartedly, as the majority had never heard the song before. That was true of the next three or four songs, which were all perfectly adequate but from McLagan’s last couple of solo albums.
Of these songs, “All I Wanna Do” stood out from the pack, as McLagan’s piano playing was exceptional and the song had a melody.
It was well over the half-hour mark before we heard a song we recognised. “Cindy Incidentally” was slowed down to a blues tempo, to suit the singer’s voice, but that didn’t stop the dad-dancing which broke out all over the room.
Afterwards, it was back to Mac’s more recent work again, with “He’s Not for You” and a song he originally wrote for his step-daughter in his Small Faces days, “Little Girl”. It was reasonably memorable but, by now, the strain of ten gigs in ten days was telling on his already raspy voice. The stories in-between songs became ever longer and even, dare I say, rambling; especially the ones about his fallout with his son and his uncle in Ireland, which was sure to end with a Small Faces song. But it didn’t, much my consternation.
The story leading up to his wonderful rendition of the Faces’ “You’re So Rude” could easily have been halved and still been too long. The song itself was well worth waiting for, as was the slow and bluesy interpretation of “Glad ‘n Sorry”, which is and was a personal favourite of mine.
As the evening slowly drew to a close, Ian introduced the last-but-one song by joking that he wouldn’t actually leave the stage before doing an encore. He’d introduce a song “we all knew” as “the encore”. By this stage, McLagan’s piano playing sounded as tired as his voice on even more Bump Band songs, which was such a shame as the atmosphere that was electric at the beginning of the night all but evaporated by the time of the “encore.” Those around me had all been whispering suggestions as to what he would end with. Bearing in mind the back catalogue McLagan is associated with, “Debris” didn’t even make our Top 50 suggestions.
As I packed my camera and notepad away, a large crowd was surrounding McLagan at the merchandise table. But, as I passed by, it appeared more people wanted selfies with the great man than were actually buying Bump Band CDs. Sadly, this was an opportunity missed, with Ian McLagan misjudging his own popularity and playing far too many new songs for my — and the rest of the audience’s — liking.