10 CC, LGT, Mainframe, Ian Boddy
London Hammersmith Odeon
16th March 1983
Rock superstars 10 CC have been quiet of late, with their last album 'Ten Out Of Ten' creating relatively little impression, but their musical qualities have not diminished and they can still turn in a spectacular live performance.
Founder members Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman form the nucleus of the band, and they are now joined by Paul Burgess (drums), Rick Fenn (guitar and vocals), Vic Emerson (keyboards) and Stuart Tosh (drums, percussion and vocals). Against an impressive New York urban background, the band worked through most of their greatest hits, with a smattering of new material which was sadly much less familiar. The set opened with a pacey medley, and continued for the first half-hour or so to cover well-known tracks such as 'Rubber Bullets', 'Good Morning Judge' and 'Wall Street Shuffle'. 'Silly Love', another single from the 'Sheet Music' album, and 'Life Is A Minestrone' from 'The Original Soundtrack' also got a powerful, uptempo rendition, with Stuart Tosh's drum sound being particularly noticeable. Apart from a bass drum with a kick like a mule, the tom sound was incredibly clear and precise, with all credit going to sound engineer Martin Lawrence.
Graham Gouldman alternated between a crisp rhythm guitar, Fender Electric piano and a genuine acoustic grand (not a frequent sight in these impoverished times), helping to set the pace and tone for clap-along songs such as 'The Things We Do For Love', heavier numbers such as 'Art For Art's Sake', or the poignancy of 'I'm Mandy, Fly Me'.
Since the latter track involves a heavy use of Mellotrons and special effects in its original form, it was interesting to see a live interpretation of the piece. Vic Emerson's keyboard set-up consisted only of a Yamaha Electric Grand and a CBS Rhodes Chroma with its associated foot-pedals and controllers, yet he managed to provide a wide array of rich, symphonic sounds including some very accurate instrumental imitations. The steel drums of 'Dreadlock Holiday' were one excellent example, and the Chroma also showed itself to be capable of good string sounds and convincing human voices. As a soloing instrument it has yet to prove itself on the evidence of Vic Emerson's one very brief lead break, however.
10 CC covered many musical styles during the evening, from the calypso of 'From Rochdale to Ocha Rios' to the more experimental feel of their seven-minute single '24 Hours'. Despite a predominantly middle-aged audience they generated a large degree of enthusiasm without excessive volume, and although there were a couple of duff notes in 'I'm Not In Love' (which they could reasonably be expected to have learned by now) the technical quality of the playing was very high indeed. Similar comments apply to the sound mix, which proved an unexpected bonus in an evening characterised by melody and harmony.
London Hammersmith Odeon
16th March 1983
In support of 10 CC, LocomotivGT make their UK debut with a set based on their EMI album 'Too Long'. To learn that they are Hungary's top rock band is to know everything there is to know about them; their music is slick, up-tempo, MOR and inescapably derived from the Western light rock tradition. Centre of attraction is band leader and keyboardist Gabor Presser (featured in April's E&MM), although the frontman is vocalist Tamas Somlo, who shared the introductions and links with Gabor. Completing the line-up are Janos Solti (percussion), Janos Karacsony (guitar) and a two-man brass section.
Most of the songs tend to be lengthy, with various solos, novelty sections and gimmicks thrown in to keep the audience happy. Tamas Somlo contributed a screaming jazz violin solo, together with the beginning of a sax solo taken over by the brass section for a fluid and expressive climax. The jazz/blues backing became a little predictable at times, however, and 50's-style rock and roll contrasted sharply with the band's Hungarian origins. At some points the influence of gypsy music — the accelerandi and fluid rhythms — were put to stimulating use, but the overall approach was not serious enough to be consistently interesting.
Gabor Presser's keyboards suffered from being a little low in the mix, but his jazzy Yamaha Grand piano runs managed to cut through and maintain a sense of continuity. His Jupiter 8 didn't fare so well, and any ambitious sounds attempted on it were largely lost, either through inaccurate mixing or through unfamiliarity with the instrument.
Although LGT created a reasonably enthusiastic response among a less than youthful audience, the overall impression was that this was as much due to their wacky non-musical antics as to their well-intentioned musical efforts. Comparisons with The Barron Knights are inescapable, and the more serious approach of Gabor Presser's solo album 'Electromantic' is much to be preferred.
London Rock Garden
20th March 1983
If Mainframe don't become famous in the next twelve months, it won't be because they're not good enough, but probably because they're too good. They are one of the very few bands playing high-quality, technologically oriented, accessible pop music, and are ambitious enough to make it if they can retain the freshness they're now displaying.
The set played at the Rock Garden, and at an earlier date in the exclusive Embassy Club, was based on the band's forthcoming concept album 'Tenants of the Lattice-Work', and like the album was played with the help of a selection of synthesisers and computers. To describe the band as a duo would be to neglect the activities of their engineers Andrew Earle of Gothic Audio-Visual (video) and Colin Holgate (graphics) and of road crew Jez West and Simon, and manager Rod Munro, who between them have helped to create a very slick performance machine.
However, the front men are John Molloy (keyboards and vocals) and Murray Munro (keyboards, guitar and vocals), who together with a 4-track Teac for backing, a slide projector, a selection of video machines and TV monitors and the odd Apple 2 manage to throw together an entertaining and varied show with as much visual as musical appeal. John's setup consists of a Juno 60, Moog Prodigy and Moog Liberation, which when slung around the neck provides a degree of mobility and expression almost unequalled by any other instrument. Murray uses a Yamaha SK20 keyboard together with guitar and a boom-mounted mic — which could do with being replaced by a headset mic to emphasise the band's image as a compact, high-technology unit.
The opening backing tape carried drum sounds and sequences which largely define the duo's sound, an uptempo form of electro-pop. All the percussion sounds are played by hand on the Liberation and carefully multitracked before mixdown, resulting in a fluid and forceful backing which can't be identified as the usual Linn or TR808. Over this the Juno 60 typically lays string/harpsichord sounds, while Murray Munro's guitar picks up catchy hook lines with an unusually rich intonation. For slower sections he produces a gently attacking note, curling a finger around the volume pot to fade in each phrase, and a subtle use of echo on guitar and vocals helps to thicken the sound.
Some of the rapid sequences used to open tracks are reminiscent of Depeche Mode, but Mainframe have more power and more variation. Additionally their graphic display is unequalled. Live computer animation synchronised by a sound-to-light system and displayed on colour monitors includes moving cubes, starscapes, digitised photographs and spirograph-like abstracts. A projector screen at the rear of the stage shows pictures of the band's past shows, landscapes and other images, while a videotape intercut with the computer graphics helps to explain the concept of 'Tenants'. The Tron-like scenario involves a businessman named Oscar who finds himself reduced to a computer program in a digital limbo; the attraction of the band is that a single concept links together all their activities and ideas, yet they avoid the danger of becoming blandly mechanical as a result.
As the set went on the graphics became increasingly impressive, with a skeletal 'Mainframe' logo panning across the screens and John Molloy's Prodigy and Liberation solos become increasingly impassioned. The present single 'Radio (Will Bring Me Home)' proved a highlight, and with distribution by PRT and a degree of airplay it may well lead to greater things. Available from MC2 Records at (Contact Details) — also the managerial address for the band — it's unusual in that the third track is a coded message for Apple 2 owners, just the first of a number of computer-related releases the band have in store.
With forceful management and the all-important quality of catchy accessibility, Mainframe could have a bright future. But, even if they don't catch the wider public imagination, every aspiring electro-musician should take any available opportunity to see live a band who are utilising every aspect of modern musical and audiovisual technology to the full.
Triangle Arts, Birmingham
19th February, 1983
Ian's inaugural concert at the new music workshop in Aston University was mentioned in the review of his cassette album 'Options' in April's E&MM. With a compact set-up of electronic equipment he played two pieces of what he calls 'electro-pop', but is more closely allied to Tangerine Dream's or Jean-Michel Jarre's more progressive style.
Central to the keyboard line-up was a Korg Polysix, which with a degree of digital echo provided string, swept filter and abstract sounds with equal ease. Percussion was provided by a Roland Drumatix programmed with lengthy chains of simple, driving rhythms, and linked to a Roland Bassline which produced a fluid sequencer pattern for the lengthy uptempo sections. A Roland CSQ sequencer provided additional backing patterns, and a 100M modular system improved some of the percussion sounds and carried out various other functions. Lastly, a VCS3 synth provided abstract sounds, with colour-coded sets of pins left in position on its patchboard for quick selection.
The emphasis in the longer piece was on rapid sequences, random changes of filter tone, powerful sweeping chords and only an occasional lead-line. Short themes re-occurred at various points, and the piece followed the classic pattern of slow abstract start, lengthy sequencer run, and gentle chordal finish. Ian then gave a talk on the equipment used, and was persuaded into playing another shorter piece based on a work in progress at Newcastle's Spectro Arts Workshop.
The whole event was highly enjoyable, and demonstrated the fact that Ian's live style is rapidly developing and producing even more energy than his popular but rather delicate recorded work. More live performances are planned for later in the year, and there's talk of an LP before long. Ian's style fills a definite gap between the abstraction of Jarre or Schulze and the descriptiveness of electronic film music, and as such will find an increasing number of devotees in the future.