It’s funny. After fifty years in the business, a performer could show signs of wear and tear. But not this one. Ian McLagan is one of the most exuberant performers to grace the stage. He’s almost giddy with excitement as he stands over his electric piano at the wood-panelled Fitzgerald’s venue in Berwyn, Illinois.

Before he arrives, a woman smiles at me. On her table is a colossal beverage, which looks refreshing and delicious. “That looks good,” I say. “It’s my celebration drink,” she responds.

“What’s the occasion?” Her eyes narrow and all of a sudden I feel like I’ve asked a really, stupid question. She glances at the stage. “It’s Ian. We’re celebrating Ian.”

I had just run into Ian at the bistro next door. He told me how much he loved his grand piano. After travelling, he couldn’t wait to get home to it. Leaving the motor in his vehicle running, he ran inside just to run his fingers over the keys; just for a moment. Almost an hour later, lost in the soothing acoustics, he hurried back outside, fingers crossed that his engine hadn’t died.

The room wasn’t completely packed, but the people who showed up were also there to celebrate Ian, along with that tall, cool drink. He mentioned his dear Small Faces mate immediately.

“This is a song I wrote for Ronnie Lane,” he said, introducing ‘Hello, Old Friend’ as his band mate John Notarthomas played a smooth bass line. The two sang crisp harmonies. Ian launched into the first of two keyboard solos. His right hand articulated screeching blues passages, whilst his left hand punched out steady, powerful octaves. His second solo was also bright and melodic.

“I used to be like Tarzan,” he laughed, trying to quickly open a water bottle. He introduced his new album, 'United States', and proudly announced that besides being available as a CD it would be “the first vinyl release in thirty years.” He shared his excitement about playing to such an appreciative crowd. Vinyl and live music — Ian wondered out loud whether they would completely go out of style…

'Sha La La La Lee' had shades of Jerry Lee Lewis. It was Ian’s first single with Small Faces: Kenney Jones, Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane. It’s a catchy Gospel-tinged ballad.

His next number, 'Been a Long Time' was more of a honky tonk, road song. “Ain’t nobody knows me here/I walk the streets all alone,” Ian sang as if he were marooned in a motel parking lot.

‘All I Want to Do’ had a thunderous bass line - “Sometimes I weep/Sometimes I scream…” He played tricky figures between the repetitive phrases and then transitioned with a country vamp and employed some more effusive harmonies with John.

“You can be kind/You can be cold,” the story unfolded. There was a strident rhythm to the lyrics that Ian showcased with great affection.

‘Don’t Say Nothing’ from the new album began with a classical, quasi-hypnotic introduction. The slower pacing meant we were able to drink in the view: the slight Ian, with frosty white, wavy hair, twinkling blue eyes and white button down shirt and dark-haired, burley John, wearing a brown jacket.

‘We All Do That’ had a bittersweet, cautionary theme. “Maybe I judged you too soon,” Ian sang with a questioning tone. Off 'Live at the Lucky Lounge', which was recorded at the Austin club where Ian has entertained fans for more than a decade and where he resides, he sang ‘Cindy Incidentally’ (“Ooh La La”), ripping glissandos over the keys.

After John exited, Ian played ‘Mean Old World’ a bluesy canvas for his electric piano’s rumbling bass. “I can’t be true to a woman who’s wishing she’s with someone else,” he sang convincingly with his scratchy, soulful voice. And then another song for Ronnie Lane: ‘Little Girl’ is a vivacious boogie. From last album, 'Never Say Never',John returned for ‘An Innocent Man’. They traded licks, floating in and out of each other’s radar. John’s Spanish style acoustic guitar solo juxtaposed Ian’s rootsy bass lines.

Ian took a break to speak heart to heart. “We earned a lot of money but we never got it,” he confessed to the audience, reflecting back on the royalties he wouldn’t receive until the 1990s. But then there were the great times and the close friendships. He sang ‘You’re So Rude’ with lyrics written by Ronnie Lane.

The title song of 'Never Say Never' is an all-around masterpiece. The lyrics are tender, romantic and deeply personal and the melody has an infectious rhythm. ’Love Letter’ is another introspective love ballad and it fits in nicely with the 'United States' collection; a diverse set of tunes that draw from Ian’s most personal experiences and respect for numerous styles.

Ian’s career path has been impressive: The Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt, the Faces, Billy Bragg, the Bump Band etc., yet one foot seems firmly entrenched in the past and in a most positive way. “Ronnie Lane was the heart and soul of the Small Faces,” he acknowledged warmly, adding that the songwriting team of Steve Marriott/Ronnie Lane was a one-off too.

‘Glad and Sorry’ was laden with more harmonies and the next ballad ‘Warm Rain’ had clear, colourful imagery. On ‘I’m Your Baby Now’ Ian reverted to another era when blues was the prix fix on the menu. You might hear a little Robert Johnson in his casual vocal tone, and he has a way of making that piano sound like a vintage rock and roll guitar. His encore was the Ronnie Lane-penned chestnut ‘Debris’, a song Lane wrote on behalf of his father. Ian and John received a full-blown standing ovation that was heartfelt and rewarded with a meet and greet.

It was a magical night, and with rumours surfacing that the Faces will have a reunion in 2015, it looks like we’ll be seeing a lot more of this versatile performer on a larger scale, but tonight we’re just as happy to keep Ian McLagan to ourselves.


Photos by Jim Summaria
www.jimsummariaphoto.com













Related Links:

http://www.ianmclagan.com/
http://www.jimsummariaphoto.com
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_McLagan


Commenting On: Fitzgerald’s, Berwyn, Illinois, 30/10/2014 - Ian McLagan








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