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Slim Chance

Thursday 25th August 2016

Eel Pie Club, Twickenham

The last time we caught Slim Chance was at London's Borderline in January 2014 - a fantastic set which actually won them our 'Best Acoustic' 2014 WRC Award! Slim Chance has its origin in the early seventies, formed by the legendary and brilliant songwriter, the late Ronnie Lane, who had been a mainstay of both the Small Faces and The Faces before he went on to pursue his unique musical vision with Slim Chance. Turn the clock back a further 38 years (ouch) and we also saw them of course with Ronnie at Olympia's Great British Music Festival along with the esteemed company of The Pretty Things, Nazareth, Charlie, Be Bop Deluxe and some band called Bad Company! Impressive eh?

Well we took in Slim Chance at Twickenham's famous Eel Pie Club last Thursday night - the line-up now featuring original members, Charlie Hart (accordion, fiddle, keyboards and vocals), Steve Simpson (guitar, mandolin, fiddle and vocals) and Steve Bingham (bass and vocals). The evening was complemented by an insightful and delightful chat with Charlie before the gig about the memorable past and indeed the future before we made our way upstairs, got our £2 WRC members discount and then saw excellent acoustic guitar support from Peter Hammerton (minus his mucker Rod Lynton) - which had to be seen to be believed - his set ranging from Stevie Wonder to The Beatles. An excellent start to a hot and sticky evening.

We were then privileged to witness a wonderful rootsy, folk-rock mix of Slim Chance originals, Ronnie's own numbers (including the Faces) plus a few tracks off of Slim Chance's latest CD 'On The Move' with the band roster completed by drummer Brendan O'Neill (ex-Rory Gallagher), Geraint Watkins (keyboards and vocals) and Billy Nicholls (acoustic guitar and vocals) who indeed worked in the past with not only Ronnie but also Steve Marriott and John Paul Jones!

"Well Hello - How Are You?" sang Simpson as they opened with Lane's 'Last Orders Please' taken from The Faces 'A Nod Is As Good As A Wink' - and despite missing Slim Chance's original clarinet - the emphatic answer from the audience was a definite "we'll have more of that thank you very much". Lane's collaboration with Pete Townshend on the album 'Rough Mix' led to Watkins hypnotic keys and vocals on 'Rats Tales' alias 'Cat Melody' and again despite no saxophone - Hart's accordion more than made up for this on a song co-written by Lane and Kit Lambert - the irony being that whilst working on this album Ronnie discovered that he had Multiple Sclerosis. Bingham's new track 'Fishing Line' from 'On The Move' kept the momentum going with its catchy chorus keeping the Slim Chance flag flying before Geraint's opening keys on 'You're So Right' - from Lane's very own album 'See Me' - saw vested interest from Charlie's accordion given he originally recorded the album with some guy called Eric Clapton. Whatever happened to him? Watkins and Hart's own composition 'Ragtime' - again from 'On The Move' - did exactly what it said on the tin - albeit with that subtle Slim Chance twist of a banjo and a fiddle followed by another from 'OTM' - Steve's 'Two Steps Away From Love' - again rock n' roll with that unique Slim Chance feel. A cover of Wilmer Watts & His Lonely Eagles 'Duncan And Brady' is also featured on 'OTM' - this upbeat take on the night showcasing once more Hart's accordion expertise.

Who remembers Gallagher & Lyle? Well 'Tell Everyone' taken from Lane's very first Sim Chance album 'Anymore For Anymore' not only included G&L but Steve Bingham as well - although Simpson duly stepped up to the plate on both vocals and a guitar solo which also saw Hart chip in with some extra mean keys. Charlie's accordion intro on 'See Me's' 'Kuschty Rye' with Nicholls vocals and Simpson's mandolin - paid their respect to a song poignantly written by Ronnie and his wife - before Steve (also on vocals) and Charlie's duelling fiddles on 'Anniversary' (yee haa!) was as equally poignant given that they both had actually recorded the track with Ronnie on Slim Chance's second album! 'The Poacher' always takes me back to the early days of Capital Radio when I first heard it and I still love it - not only was it on 'AFA' but it also on 'OTM' - and despite more subtle duelling fiddles - Bingham duly took the honours with his opening bass and vocals - testimony to the fact that he originally recorded it! Geraint's influence on Slim Chance was well and truly demonstrated with two more tracks from 'OTM' - 'J'ai Besoin De Toi' which he co-wrote (more duelling fiddles) and 'Hey Hey, Ho Ho' a 1987 cover - the mixed rock 'n' roll, cajun, country and R&B sound from one of his previous bands - Balham Alligators!

Not unsurprisingly we then literally had 'One For The Road' - the title track from their third album - with Billy's vocals plus the expected enthusiasm of Simpson (mandolin) and Hart (accordion) - given they originally recorded it - ensuring that it turned into the obligatory audience singalong. Marvellous. And talking of singalong's, what better way to follow that up than 'How Come' - co-written by Ronnie Lane and Kevin Westlake, and recorded by Lane as his first single in 1973 after he left The Faces - with it's distinctive Faces mandolin sound courtesy of Simpson with Nicholls on vocals. The beautiful 'Debris' (again from 'ANIAGAAW') slowed things down. Watkins vocals and keys matched by solos from Hart (also keyboards) and Simpson (guitar) - a touching tribute for a song written by Ronnie for his father. Two more Faces songs penned by Lane rounded off the set - another from 'ANIAGAAW' - 'You're So Rude' - originally sung by Ronnie but with vocals from Steve - with Charlie's accordion now in overdrive plus another blistering guitar solo from Steve - and the title track of The Faces last album 'Ooh La La' - which according to Ian McLagan, "was Ronnie Lane's album" with Simpson on vocals and mandolin plus a keys solo from Watkins which McLagan would no doubt have savoured. A cracking encore of Louis Prima's 'Buona Sera Signorina' a tango that rocked which belied its sixty years vintage was the last opportunity for the boys to excel with Geraint on keys/vocals plus final solos from Charlie (fiddle) and Steve (guitar).

Talking to Charlie after the show he said "I thought the lads gave it their all as usual so its a band I'm proud to be part of." Just goes to show Charlie that class is permanent. No doubt Ronnie would be proud of you all mate.


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