Messrs Weller and Gallagher missed it, despite many hopeful whispers around the bar - frankly it was their loss...
One of a literally dying breed of rock’n’roll gentry figures, former Small Faces keyboard player Ian McLagan cheerily admitted in his recent autobiography that he’d “shag anything with a pulse”. Heck, we’re talking about a man who played in a band that had their own bar on the stage for much of the ’70s (The Faces), and was told by Keith Richards, no less, that perhaps he should cut down on the drugs a little.
Yet remarkably, he’s still with us, fresh from a stint with Billy Bragg’s aptly named Blokes, and fronting his own Bump Band before an inquisitive Camden audience, evenly split between sharp-suited mods, raddled ’70s veterans and those with more sensible jobs to hold down.
‘Best Of British’ sets the tone – one of boozy reminiscence – with McLagan singing a throaty, Keef-like, “hello to Camden Town”. He’s been resident in Austin, Texas for six years, where he picked up the Bump Band’s twin guitarists (the rhythm section being fellow Bragg Blokes) and that kinda explains the rose-coloured specs. His wife’s still stuck out there, but she arrives tomorrow – “so it’ll be a big old sunny day” the salty old dog reassures us, perhaps giving away more information than we need. Of the other new tunes, if ‘Hope Street’ appears too heavy on the ‘people going hungry’ sentiment, we can rest safe in the knowledge that ‘Mac’ is 4-Real, seeing as he once beat off the bailiffs with a bed pan, and though ‘Warm Rain’ starts off somnolently mellow, McLagan’s psychedelic Hammond finale is suitably cosmic to stir comparisons with Mercury Rev. Faces oldie ‘Cindy Incidentally’ has the young folk chattering too, sounding – as ever – like the template for Primal Scream’s ‘Cry Myself Blind’.
In between, we get songs that Mac’s penned for Rod (“the old bugger; I play this to him every two years or so in the hope he’ll record it”) and that Ron Wood has penned for Mac (“I asked him what it meant, and he told me, ‘Dunno’.”). There’s also big shouts from the stage for former Small Faces accomplice Kenney Jones, and numerous plugs for the album, the book, and even the T-shirt (“See it’s reversible. When it gets dirty you can turn it inside-out.”).
But barrow-boy antics aside, it’s the Small Faces songs that suit McLagan’s wheezy Lahndan croak the best tonight. “I don’t remember any of it,” he confides before ‘Get Yourself Together’, forgetting the words as if to reinforce the point; and ‘Watcha’ Gonna Do About It’ and ‘All Or Nothing’ melt away the years with similar aplomb.
It’s effortless stuff, from a man lucky enough to have done time in two of the world’s finest bands, and even luckier to have lived to tell the tale. Messrs Weller and Gallagher missed it, despite many hopeful whispers around the bar – frankly it was their loss.