Genesis at O2 Arena London 26.3.2022; 10cc at Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre 4.4.2022; Sad Café at Pizza Express live, Holborn 8.4.2022
It’s fair to say my early gig going and record buying didn’t stray far from the punk, new wave, post punk then indie bag…. at all. Anyone carrying a Genesis album around at school would have got a ‘hippy’ comment. My mate Rich (RTh) had an ever-extending Genesis collection that I was subjected to for many an idle school holiday day. 10cc and Sad Café were bands I remember being in the charts and on the radio, and both used to have blurry TV videos…..arty maybe or just old technology.
Forty years later I get to see all three of these rock legends that emerged from the 70s… in a fortnight. One in a 20,000 capacity arena, one in a pizza joint and one in a theatre in Bournemouth. All a bit of a long shot. All very enjoyable events in different ways.
Genesis at the O2 Arena was a huge event – Genesis the final show. I felt a bit of a gate crasher with all those seasoned fans, the big light show and a sad farewell with the crumpled figure of Phil Collins at the big heart of it all. His voice was still there as he sang from his office chair, his son behind him on the drums, and a wall of sound consisting of various musicians led by Genesis old boys Tony Banks on keyboards and Mike Rutherford on guitar.
I can’t pretend to have followed the Genesis fortunes. I suppose the 1978 And Then There Were Three album, with the quite poppy single Follow You Follow Me, is the one I knew most and they played least. A Genesis fan would no doubt roll their eyes. It’s probably the sight of the album cover on regular occasions in my youth that made me feel like the title track of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway was central to what the Genesis thing is/ was about. Marvellous. I felt I’d been drawn in… over 40 years…. those hairy friends at school had won. (They’ve never seen the Skids though.)
So my first Genesis gig was their last – that was the idea anyway. It felt like the end. Phil Collins said after that it was the end. Collins, Rutherford and Banks were left on the stage like old friends at a wake – a wake enjoyed by 20,000 people. What an event to be at.
At the other extreme was the exceptionally friendly and forward-looking feel of Sad Café at Pizza Express Holborn. They are looking to get out on the road again now the plague is subsiding.
Two original members, Ian Wilson (vocals/guitar and original singer songwriter) and Des Tong (bass/ backing vocals) were joined by a very rock’n’roll looking new frontman Barry James Thomas with leather hat, coat and big boots. And there’s a sax player, lead guitarist, drummer and backing singer who fronts up a few songs herself – lovely lady, Sue Quin, an experienced session singer and acting as the band’s hostess as we take our seats for a pre-doughball starter soundcheck.
The seats are right up almost on the stage – the semi-circular front row bar to eat your pizza off is the edge of the stage. I wolfed down my food as I realised if I wasn’t careful, I could be spraying a few 70’s soft rock legends with chilli oil and dropping dough balls on to the guitar effects pedals. There are about 20 other tables all with a great view – maybe Stiff Little Fingers will be down here one day. I’d recommend it.
The set list was no surprise as I could read it while munching my pizza beforehand – they gave out signed copies. Not that I knew more than a few singles anyway, including the biggy Everyday Hurts... I had been playing greatest hits by way of revision. It was a really good set with vocals shared about, some great sax and lead guitar solos. Top musicians who must be doing this one for the love of it: I mean there were seven on stage and a small capacity venue: it’s Pizza Express not Ronnie Scott’s.
Being so close and hearing sound through amps, monitors and direct with drums, as well as the sound system really made it special.
The third of these rock legends I encountered, that emerged from the 70s was 10cc in the more conventional setting of Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre with some long-term friends who were better versed than I in another top band.
The original 10cc member at the heart of this current touring incarnation of the band is Graham Gouldman, but Rick Fenn (guitar/vocals) has been with them since 1976. The drummer, keyboardist and younger vocalist on a significant number of songs all added to what was a fabulous collective. On arrival the guitars were lined up across the stage – loads of them – the interchangeable skills of the band were pretty remarkable. Four of them went acapella at one point. Most impressive.
I was astonished how many 10cc songs I knew – the hits just kept coming: Art for Art‘s Sake; Life is a Minestrone; Good Morning Judge; Wall Street Shuffle…The Things We Do For Love. All these must have seeped into my consciousness over the decades because I don’t own any of their stuff… a bit of a Spotify refresher maybe in recent weeks.
Some innovative use of film backdrops to cover hits sung by the well-known 10cc escapees Godley & Creme.
I’m Not in Love, Dreadlock Holiday and Rubber Bullets were in the final part of an absorbing set watched by an attentive crowd that looked calmly appreciative and quite studious until the end – by that point the theatre had started to erupt. An old theatre packed with largely 60 & 70 somethings on a Monday night ….it was buzzing.
So three examples illustrating the enjoyment that can be had by just getting out there to see some live music, especially with some experienced quality musicians. Rock on the grey-haired gig goers eh. Fab.