Tag Archives: Jon Notarthomas

T.G.I.F. – Ten For Mac

Ooh La La

I saw Ian McLagan perform last night, and as always, it was magical.

Mac performed in a beautiful little theatre in Cazenovia, NY, to an appreciative throng of fans old and new. Pretty hard not to be converted by this genuine article, who shares stories and jokes in-between renditions of songs from his solo albums and those of two of the best bands in history, The Small Faces and The Faces. On this evening he focused more on solo material, especially his latest release Never Say Never and a couple of songs from his upcoming record. Accompanying Mac was Jon Notarthomas, who weaved on and off the set adding bass lines and harmony vocals; Jon is the bass player in The Bump Band and Mac’s trusted partner on his solo gigs.

Ian McLagan is a very talented songwriter and performer, an astute writer and an accomplished painter. But his greatest quality might be his friendship. Every night Mac makes music, he tells the audience about the late great Ronnie Lane and performs one or more of Lane’s songs. Ronnie Lane might be underappreciated, but as long as Mac walks the earth, he and his music will not be forgotten. (Slim Chance is now carrying the torch again as well).

Fame changes a lot of people, but it’s obvious that Mac’s love for his friend is genuine and pure. When I leave this mortal coil, I would be blessed to have someone speak for my legacy only half as well. Of course, Mac did more than speak – Spiritual Boy is a real gem.

Opening the show were Gary Frenay and Arty Lenin, longtime pop legends from their work in The Flashcubes and Screen Test. Their work as a duo – at one time under the moniker of The Neverly Brothers – is airtight and a songwriter’s showcase. Lenin excels on any style of guitar playing, but as Gary usually plays bass, I forgot how good a guitar player he is as well. Seeing them on a stage in a first-rate theatre with an excellent sound man was a reminder of how lucky I have been to see them so many times. 

Gary, Arty and Jon are all from the Syracuse area and have known each other for decades, and seeing Jon sing lead with them on a cover of “This Boy” was a real treat. And in the interest of editorial fairness, I’ve known them all for years and we’re friends…but that does not diminish the reality of how good they are.

So for this boy, Thursday night was an honor. I saw many old friends I hadn’t seen in years and listened to a couple of hours of great music by favorite performers. Mac is off shortly to play with a reunited Faces, then more overseas solo gigs and the release of another book. If you haven’t seen Ian McLagan, there’s a hole in your life.

So for this week’s TGIF, may I present Ten For Mac!

(01) – “Glad And Sorry

(02) – “Never Say Never

(03) – “Get Yourself Together

(04) – “Little Girl

(05) – “Kuschty Rye

(06) – “Debris

(07) – “All Or Nothing

(08) – “You’re So Rude

(09) – “Little Troublemaker

(10) – “Cindy Incidentally

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Hello Old Friend: Ian McLagan

Face the music

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’s website.

Mac on Letterman.

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