Holding Back The Jeers: Hucknall Sings With Faces
Last night the long-awaited reunion of The Faces took place… sadly without Rod Stewart, but with an array of special guest vocalists – including Mick Hucknall of Simply Red fame! Was it a case of holding back the jeers? Come inside for an exclusive review by Classic Rock‘s Ian Fortnam.
PRS Charity Concert
London Royal Albert Hall
Tonight’s bill promised ‘The Faces with Bill Wyman and Special Guest Vocalists’, so obviously, despite all evidence to the contrary, our inner tartan scarf was holding out for a tearful reunion of Ronnie, Mac and Kenney with dear old Rod the Mod.
After all, it is for charity, mate. And organised by PRS – an organisation dedicated to doggedly hunting down royalty payments for songwriters, and considering that no one is closer to a pound note than our Rod, you’d think he’d be more than keen to stay on the right side of the people keeping him in model train tokens. If Rod can’t make it – yeah, like that’s ever going to happen – who could step in as special guest? Chris Robinson might be nice, Kelly Jones or Paul Weller more likely. Bonnie Tyler? Nah, too tall…
We even laughingly considered that members of the supporting cast might be roped in as honorary Faces for the night: the sultry tones of Paul Carrack perhaps, the girl power honk of Melanie C, keening stratospheric registers of Andy Fairweather Low, Sarf London turf accountant braying of Chris ‘Squeeze’ Difford, or most hilariously, the oozing wine bar soul of Mick ‘Simply Ginger’ Hucknall. Oh, my aching sides…
And so, with the ultimate in rambunctious lad’s rock on the far horizon as our prize, we sit patiently through Bill Wyman’s Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, and very good they are too, you can’t beat a bit of Georgie Fame, oh no missus, you certainly can’t.
The first interlocutory punctuation of the evening comes from our host: your friend and his, Feargal Sharkey, about as funny as Phill Jupitus and veritably unctuous in his obsession with how many records people have sold. He ushers on former Focus string-stretcher Jan Akkerman who devastates all present with an object lesson in crowd-pleasing: Hocus Pocus, Sylvia, “Thank you very Dutch!” and off. What a trouper.
Mel C makes a fine fist of Stevie Wonder’s I Wish before Andy Fairweather Low casually steals the first half with supernaturally fine renditions of Wide-Eyed And Legless and (If Paradise Is) Half As Nice, the latter boasting a chorus hook-line so unshakeably infectious as to be the virulent sonic equivalent of swine flu.
Towering prog man-mountain Rick Wakeman then hammers out a solo piano version of Eleanor Rigby in the style of Prokofiev, presumably just because he can, and then we’re all herded to the bar for Haagen-Daas and fizzy pop.
Returning to the nosebleed seating for part the second we’re in for a bumpy ride. Some fresh-faced shaver out of Joseph And His Amazing Technicolor How’s-Your-Father croons a couple of Marc Bolan tunes, another bloke – who was once in the boy band A1 – sings a couple of saccharine ballads so sickly that they’re perfectly capable of sucking the pulp out of human teeth from fifty paces, then Kiki Dee takes this opportunity to inform us that she has still, quite literally, got the music in her.
‘Hucknall’s utilising that knicker-stripping voice of his, but the Classic Rock underpants stay stoically put.’
That chap out of Level 42 who isn’t Mark King sings a couple of tunes at some point as well, but we’ve kind of glazed over by this point out of pure self-preservation.
It’s now getting a trifle late and we’re getting a bit edgy when into the breach steps Paul Carrack. And guess what he’s singing?
Yes, How Long… too long, since you ask Paul, too bloody long.
As our buttocks edge yet further forwards Chris Difford entirely fails to kick either of them with reasonably spirited lollops through Squeeze’s Take Me I’m Yours and Cool For Cats. On any other occasion, party-starting bankers, tonight though, we’d rather he just, you know… get off?
Oh God, it’s Mick Hucknall. He’s utilising that knicker-stripping voice of his, doing a bit of the old Wilson Pickett, but it’s like fingers on our inner blackboard. Obviously, here is a voice that can efficaciously peel a panty when it has to, but the Classic Rock underpants stay stoically put. We simply want him to stop; he’s not actually objectionable, he’s just not The Faces. Nor is he singing My Boomerang Won’t Come Back, the only one of his songs that we ever truly engaged with.
Finally, the wait is over… Ronnie Wood, Ian McLagan and Kenney Jones troop on to rapturous applause and if the Royal Albert Hall had provided any hoops you could rest assured that the bloke in the Rod Stewart T-shirt three rows in front of us would currently be jumping through them. Our scarf suddenly feels exceedingly tight indeed.
Mac launches into Cindy Incidentally’s opening ivory-tickle and, who’s going to sing it? We try looking behind Paul Carrack for a clue, then reality bites. Carrack makes a fair fist of it but sadly, he’s only equipped with Paul Carrack’s voice. Fine for a little bit of soul, but it’s never going to storm any barns. “Where’s Rod?” asks one brave wag from the stalls. “That’s what we want to know,” Woody counters.
Oh dear God. He’s not here.
Father Christmas is dead, The Tooth Fairy coughing up blood and the Easter Bunny riddled with myxomatosis. The dream, as they say, is over. And as if to offer final proof, here’s Andy Fairweather Low, exhibiting a somewhat cavalier attitude to getting the words to Ooh La La wrong as its author, Mr Ronnie Wood looks on askance.
And then, the world goes momentarily supernova as the riff to Stay With Me rends the firmament in twain. Put this on at our funeral and you’ll hear no muffled complaints from inside the coffin, this – as they say – is the bollocks, but who is this we espy trotting sure-footedly toward the microphone? We clutch our chest as our popping eyes threaten to dislodge our misty spectacles, for it is none other than Mick Hucknall, and unless a sniper intervenes he’s going to start singing.
Which he does; he sings quite well actually, but he’s no Rod Stewart.
But it’s not his fault, Rod should be here. What excuse can he possibly have? Surely three songs wouldn’t kill him. The Faces, and Bill (giving it plenty of Plonk), are superb, a bit ramshackle, but that was always a large part of their charm, but Mick Hucknall? Dear God, it’s like being served up a massive fillet steak only to find that some well-meaning soul has slathered it with Marmite. Someone has smothered our juicy post-pub Stay With Me kebab with an entire bottle of Simply Red chilli sauce, and the end result is akin to eating sweets with toothache… mixed feelings and then some. The last 32 bars of instrumental mayhem represent quite a pay-off, but hey, our heart’s already broken. What happened next? They played Stay With Me again as a full company encore, of course.
Exquisite agony compounded. Then again, we wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
– Ian Fortnam