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10cc Bring British Smiles and Virtuosic Playing to Australia

10cc’s material is a thrilling blend of music hall, theatre, the Beatles, the Beach Boys and pop-art appropriations akin to Richard Hamilton. 




The Tivoli, Brisbane 


Ten minutes into the opening night of 10cc’s current Australian tour, Graham Gouldman pulls out one of the most recognisable bass riffs of the 1970’s on “Art for Art’s Sake”. As the tune finishes, Gouldman points skyward and thanks his dad for providing the lyric inspiration, “art for art’s sake / Money for God’s sake”

It was Gouldman’s father who spotted a lone milk bottle on the step of a Manchester terrace house in the early 1960’s and suggested to a young Graham that there might be a song in it. There was. The teenager went on to write “No Milk Today” for Herman’s Hermits, “Bus Stop” for the Hollies and “For Your Love” and “Heart Full of Soul” for the Yardbirds. 

As Goldman leans into that riff, you’re struck by the fact that this man – one of Britain’s songwriting greats – has been doing this pretty much since the Beatles dropped “Please Please Me” in 1963. 

When 10cc started in Stockport in 1972, they were a band made up of four distinct musical personalities: Gouldman, Eric Stewart, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme. Godley & Creme jumped ship in 1976 to work further in music and then video. Stewart stayed partnered with Gouldman, officially, until 1983, followed by a long hiatus and a 1990’s reunion. 

Today Gouldman is the last man standing, fronting a band that includes veteran Paul Burgess (who’s been on 10cc’s drum stool for fifty years), guitarist Rick Fenn (who’s clocked a 46-year tenure in the touring band), Keith Hayman on piano/keys/guitar and percussion and relative newbie Ian Hornal who not only sings Stewart’s parts sublimely, but adds guitar/keys and percussion. 

Before the show starts, I’m reminded of the Ship of Theseus – the thought experiment that challenges the nature of identity and change. It poses the paradox of a ship whose parts are gradually replaced over time, so that none of the original components remain. Is the ship still the same? By the time 10cc are rolling into “Life Is a Minestrone” and “The Wall Street Shuffle”, I no longer care. 

Tonight Gouldman, who gives author credits to past members throughout, shines a light on everything from the hits and album tracks to pieces from the margins. So beautifully unique, the material is a blend of music hall, theatre/satire, the Beatles, the Beach Boys and pop-art appropriations akin to Richard Hamilton. 

Early highlights include “Feel the Benefit”, “I’m Mandy Fly Me” and “Silly Love”. To ears that don’t know the catalogue inside out – like mine – the tunes are a delicious sonic challenge. The playing is virtuosic – Hornal, singing out front, or alongside Gouldman and Fenn, is a gem. 

There are two new songs, Gouldman’s “Floating in Heaven” and Hornal’s “Say the Word”, as well as five or six stone cold classics.

As the set nears its close, there’s the perfect pop sculpture of “The Things We Do for Love”, “I’m Not in Love” and a stunning a capella of the band’s first single, and then doo-wop pastiche, “Donna”. 

The show ends with a thumping “Rubber Bullets”. The audience are on their feet. There’s no fist pumping on stage, just very wide British smiles and the acknowledgement of a job very well done. Brilliant.