Ian McLagan and the Bump Band live at the Jazz Cafe
Friday, September 5, 2008 1:20:03 PM
Not that the distance I travelled should be seen as an indication of how keen I was to see him. Circumstances (ManorCon) meant that on the day of the gig I was miles away in Leicester, and that I had to take a 150 mile detour to Lancashire to pick up my mother-in-law.
So, I was pretty tired by the time I got to the Jazz Cafe but I was confident that the ebullient "Mac" would lift my spirits.
Talking of Spirit, I was pleased to learn from my companion that Mark Andes, former bass player of Spirit, was now a full-time member of Mac's Bump Band. So, I'd get to see the keyboard player from my favourite band of all time and the guy who played bass on my favourite album of all time (Spirit's
Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus).
The Jazz Cafe was crowded but not unpleasantly jam-packed. Punters were mostly of a similar age group to me, so probably long time fans. Not exactly a critical audience.
Shortly after nine o'clock the diminutive keyboard wizard walked on stage, followed by his drummer, the aforementioned Mark Andes, and his guitar player.
I'd last seen McLagan about 5 years ago and he looked to have aged quite a lot in the interval, but then he did lose his beautiful wife in a car crash last year so I guess he has reason for looking a bit shop worn.
I was under the impression that I had seen Mark Andes at the Finsbury Park Rainbow in 1973 playing bass for Jo Jo Gunne but a quick check of the web suggests he left the band before 1973. Nevertheless, he was as I imagined he would beL a serene hippy dude, with long blond hair, with the fringe tied back Emmanuel Petit style, into a pony tail.
As it happens, he is one of those bassists who is happy to keep his playing unobtrusive, to the extent that it could have been Joe Bloke on the bass.
Anyway, Mac handles vocals now as well as keyboards, and while he does not have a great vocal range, he has a warm, throaty style that suits his R&B tinged mid-paced rock songs well. At one point a fan cried out for "Tin Soldier" and received a withering reply along the lines of "not having a grand piano with me, not having PP Arnold on backing vocals and not having the amazing vocal talent of Steve Marriott" to do it justice.
In fact, the only Small Faces song we got was Get Yourself Together, an obscure "B" side performed at the request of Paul Weller, who was hiding up on the balcony somewhere (though he did come down to mingle with the ordinaries after the gig and happily posed for pictures, in contravention of his public persona as a moddy git).
The rest of the set was dominated by Bump Band songs (which is fair enough), and songs from the late lamented Ronnie Lane (also formerly of the Small Faces and Faces), including a storming rendition of Lane's "Kuschty Rye" and a dreary plod through Lane's sub-par quasi-reggae mood piece "Spiritual Babe".
The band was tight, the keyboard playing excellent, the songs utterly non-ground breaking, being mainly 12-bar fare. They are a top notch bar band, but I am not sure I would go so far as to buy their albums. Well, I would, but then I have a sentimental attachment to the man. You can check out one of his albums (for free!) at www.we7.com if you are curious.
Having said that, the material from his most recent album seemed a lot stronger, including a touching song that was presumably a lament for his wife.
At times the between song banter was as entertaining as the music. McLagan has personality to spare and is a wonderful raconteur. Check out his book All The Rage for one of the best music biographies I have read - and trust me I've read at least three...
Highlight of the gig was the Faces single "Cindy Incidentally" which really had the crowd in party mood. Perhaps talk of a Faces reunion isn't such a disastrous sounding idea at all.
Mac doesn't do encores, so he finished his set and then did a few more, including a tribute to harmonica player Little Water - despite not having a harmonica player in the band.
He finished with an invitation for anyone in the crowd to come and see his band play in Austin, Texas. "We play every WednEsday night and admission is free."
Well, if I can drive 400 miles to see him, surely a little trip to Austin is not out of the question?