Eight months ago I had the privilege of sitting about twenty feet away from Ian McLagan and The Bump Band when they rocked the house in my town (review here). Last night I got to sit even closer as Ian kicked off his Fall solo tour with accompaniment from newest Bump member Jon Notarthomas on acoustic, electric and bass. Where the Bump Band shows featured several Faces and Small Faces classics, Mac’s current tour is centered upon material from his solo albums, and the result is a warm, funny and intimate show.
Mac will tell you that music is about love, and the set list is peppered with songs that back that up. The smaller setting gives Mac an opportunity to set the stage for each song with a background story or a wry joke; few musicians exude such an approachable and impish vibe. He makes it a point to play Ronnie Lane’s music at every concert so “Ronnie is in the house tonight”. But there are also those moments when you can feel the pain of loss he has endured. Although I thought “Where Angels Hide” was written after and about the loss of his wife Kim, finding out it was initially written to console a friend who had lost his wife makes it no less poignant or powerful.
No Hammond on this tour – Mac is traveling with an electric piano - but it’s perfect for those songs and that voice. Notarthomas steps in frequently to add flavor with guitars, bass and perfect harmony vocals; the show floats from heart-tugging ballad to barrelhouse rocker and back with ease. Although the set list spans his long career, quite a few are from the most recent album. Here’s my capsule review of Mac’s most recent album, Never Say Never, which ran last year:
Mac is a little mellower than usual on this one, but there aren’t too many bigger hearts making records nowadays. Surrounded as always by great musicians, Mac’s soulful raspy vocals and expressive playing are framed by heartfelt songs, many obvious love notes to his late wife Kim. Ronnie Lane fans will like the organic feel of “Killing Me With Love” while Faces fans will delight in the barrel-house rocker “I’m Hot, You’re Cool”. The Bump Band is on tour where Mac’s material shines brightest, and I’ll wager some alternate arrangements pop up in the set-list.
It’s no accident that Ian McLagan got to be a member of two of the greatest groups of all time, but his solo efforts are proof that an untapped well of songs could have made both those bands even better. Thankfully Mac still has the fire and the drive so we can continue to savor his gift.
The last leg of this tour concludes before Thanksgiving, so catch him if you can:
11/18, Bop Shop, Rochester, NY
11/19, Beachland, Cleveland, OH
11/20, Martyrs, Chicago, IL
11/21, Magic Bag, Detroit, MI
11/22, Shank Hall, Milwaukee, WI
11/24, Euclid Records, St. Louis MO
11/24, Off Broadway, St. Louis, MO
Mac on Letterman.