10CC: IN CONCERT/KING BISCUIT FLOWER HOUR (1975; 1995)
1) Intro; 2) Silly Love; 3) Baron Samedi; 4) Old Wild Men; 5) Sacro-iliac; 6) Somewhere In Hollywood; 7) Donna; 8) Ships Don't Disappear In The Night; 9) The Worst Band In The World; 10) Wall Street Shuffle; 11) Rubber Bullets.
This is the only live album from 10cc recorded in their glory days (might, in fact, be the only live 10cc album as such), and, although it is sort of semi-official (like all the "King Biscuit Flower Hour" releases), it is quite essential for any fan of the band, and even worth checking out if you're just casually interested in these eccentrics.
Given that most of 10cc songs are strictly and straightforwardly studio creations, based on meticulously planned combinations of arrangements, special effects, and tricky melody shifts, one would naturally be curious to learn how they handled all this on stage (a decade earlier, the Beatles basically ran off the stage for much the same reasons). Plus, like with so many art- and prog-rock bands, there was the evident danger of their just being happy to reproduce the original sound on stage as faithfully as possible — a feat in itself — and leaving the fans in the audience well-contented and the live album buyers equally well-disappointed.
In the light of this, it is a relief to learn that on stage, they behaved themselves like a good rock band is supposed to behave. This setlist, although it was recorded on November 11, 1975 (Santa Monica Civic Center), focuses entirely on Sheet Music and, to a lesser extent, 10cc, even though The Original Soundtrack had already been released and was riding up the charts. Not knowing the facts, I'd guess that, perhaps, they might have played some numbers from that album, but that they weren't too keen about recording and broadcasting them, preferring to let all the extra listeners in on the simpler, more rocking stuff.
Indeed, it is far more exciting to hear the band jam on the ending to 'Silly Love' or on the middle part of 'Baron Samedi' than attempt to recreate the icy synthesizer patterns to 'I'm Not In Love' or to replicate, bit-by-bit, all the operatic details of 'Une Nuit A Paris'. The best news is that they can jam — not that you'd doubt it, given the pedigree of the players, but it's nice to have documental evidence. Stewart is the main star of the show, playing inventive, aggressive, and diverse solos throughout, but the rhythm section of Gouldman and Godley deserves honorary mention as well.
Some of the songs don't have jam sessions and are, in fact, faithful recreations of the studio wizardry, e. g., 'Somewhere In Hollywood'. Some are crowd-pleasers that don't always go off as well as you'd like them to go off ('Donna', in particular, is ruined by some off-key singing and poor harmonizing - apparently, these guys didn't have a natural gift for doo-wop after all). And the eight-minute jam on 'Rubber Bullets' might be pushing things a bit too far. But, twenty percent misfires aside, the album is still forty percent enjoyable rock'n'roll and forty percent skilled demonstration of the uniqueness and inventiveness of the band. Therefore, a thumbs up from both the heart and brain departments.