May 31, 2010

THE FACES: OCTOBER 1973

Ron Wood, Rod Stewart

The Faces
Cow Palace, Daly City
October 9, 1973

All photos by Dan Cuny


The Faces came into being in England, in 1969, when Steve Marriott left The Small Faces. The other members of The Small Faces soon joined their talents with those of Rod Stewart and Ron Wood, who both had departed from The Jeff Beck Group, to form a new band (with a slightly different name), known as The Faces. The membership of the new band included Rod Stewart (vocals), Ron Wood (guitar, vocals), Ronnie Lane (bass, vocals), Ian McLagan (keyboards), and Kenney Jones (drums). The first album by The Faces, First Step, was released on Warner Bros. Records in March, 1970. At the same time, Rod Stewart began to release albums and singles under his own name.

Kenney Jones

First Step was followed by Long Player in 1971. The third album by The Faces, A Nod Is as Good as a Wink... to a Blind Horse, which included "Miss Judy's Farm," "You're So Rude," "Stay with Me" (a track that received frequent airplay as a single), and "Too Bad," also was released in 1971, and generally is regarded as their best LP. When their fourth album, Ooh La La, was released in 1973, relations within the band were going badly, with Ronnie Lane, in particular, expressing frustration. Rod Stewart was, by then, becoming more famous on his own than as a member of The Faces, to the apparent detriment of the band.
 

The Faces had a cheerful and an unruly sound, incorporating blues and soul into a foundation of straight-ahead rock. Their songs, which casually expressed the cheeky personalities of the five musicians, tended to be loose and lighthearted, offering a devil-may-care outlook on life. Ron Wood, as a guitarist, was not in the same realm as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, or Jimmy Page, but his style was distinct and serviceable. With The Faces, there could never be much doubt that, although all five of them were worthy musicians and skilled performers, having a good time during their shows was their main priority. The pursuit of musical perfection always was secondary to their desire to please their fans and enjoy themselves.
 

Having Rod Stewart out front ensured that a performance by The Faces was an occasion not to be missed. Rod Stewart himself was a thoroughly engaging character, never less than totally exciting and smoothly entertaining. His raspy voice, along with his flashy clothes, his stand-up hairstyle, his cocky smile, and his nimble footwork, meant that he was an appealing figure when he was onstage, always displaying the highest degree of expert showmanship. He had the easy ability to take full command of an audience, without ever appearing to be trying too hard. His playful manner and his frequent outbursts of saucy humor, combined with the equally irreverent demeanor of his fellow Faces, turned every show into a high-spirited party.


Although The Faces were a major act in the both the UK and the USA, from the beginning their music was overshadowed by the recordings that Rod Stewart made apart from the band. One song in particular, "Maggie May," from his third album, Every Picture Tells a Story, had been an enormous hit, transforming the singer into a superstar. The unity of The Faces suffered as a result. In time, Rod Stewart's fame began to seriously undermine The Faces, causing Ronnie Lane to depart in June, 1973. (Tetsu Yamauchi, a Japanese musician who briefly had been a member of Free, was the new bassist when The Faces appeared at the Cow Palace a few months later.) The Faces finally broke up at the end of 1975, but for a few years, they were one of the greatest bands in rock'n'roll.
 






David: This was my first time to see a concert at the Cow Palace. As it turned out, it was the best one, too. The Beatles had played there, so it had a certain aura about it. This was also the first time that I saw Rod Stewart and The Faces perform. Gary, Dan, and Michael had seen them perform fourteen months before, and never stopped talking about how I had missed the best concert ever. I had been high up in the Sierras, seeing rocks instead of rock bands. I was very excited about the concert. Rod Stewart had become more popular as a solo act than as the singer with The Faces. He was the biggest rock star that I had seen up to that point.

We arrived early and were able to be fairly close to the stage. Unlike Winterland, the stage at the Cow Palace was above our heads, so being at the front was not as good. Being up close like that did give us a good view, but it also meant that we had to be crammed into the audience with no hope of escape.

Rory Gallagher opened the show with a brilliant set. The Irish people are proud of him, and they should be. Earth, Wind and Fire played next. I had very little knowledge of them at the time, but I thought that they put on a great performance. (Bill Graham liked to mix together bands that were musically different.)

I don't remember if I knew about Ronnie Lane having left the band at that time or not. I do remember being a bit shocked when I saw that he had been replaced by Tetsu Yamauchi! We had seen Tetsu a few months earlier, performing with Free as Andy Fraser's replacement. I couldn't understand how he had made it into two legendary British bands in the same year. Both bands were on their last legs, so he must have been a good pinch hitter.

Rod Stewart and Ron Wood played side by side for most of the show, but Rod was the star on stage, covering every inch of it. He lived up to his growing reputation and put on a dynamic performance. Ron Wood's guitar work was exceptional. They were playful at times. Someone from the audience tossed a handful of fake money onto the stage, and Ron Wood put a bill into his mouth. The Faces were everything we wanted to see in a rock band.

I felt that I had seen Rod Stewart at his best. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see The Faces at their best. Without Ronnie Lane, it was just not The Faces. When Rod came on stage, I distinctly remember being jammed in so tight that I could lift my feet up off the ground and not fall down. I was distracted by girls around me who were crying and calling out Rod's name throughout the show. The girl next to me was dripping wet from her tears. I wondered what would happen if there was a fire or something that caused a panic. I never felt so vulnerable.







Gary: I remember waiting outside the Cow Palace, just before being let in, and going around these white cattle fence barriers. Someone made a mooing noise and everyone cracked up. We were being herded in.

I didn't like The Faces as much this time. It seemed that their fame was affecting their performance. The Cow Palace was a bad place to see a concert. Several times the crowd shifted and almost took us with it. (I remember David mentioning that you could jump up and curl into a ball, and actually ride on the sea of bodies, which was hilarious, and probably made more funny by the potential danger.)

The Faces were tight enough, but I thought that Rory Gallagher and his band, who opened the show, were a lot better. I remember Rod Stewart playing with a long tartan scarf, but I don't remember much about the music that was played. I think overall, they were too casual and weren't taking things too seriously. Fun, perhaps, but forgettable when compared to all the other great concerts we saw at the time.







Dan: I don't know why I remember this, but it was a Tuesday night, and the first time we were going to see a show at the Cow Palace in Daly City. Ten days earlier we saw an incredible show with Mott the Hoople at Winterland. I was excited to see The Faces again, as it had been a bit over a year since we had seen them at the Oakland Coliseum Arena. Rod Stewart and The Faces have always been one of my favorite bands. Their album, Ooh La La, had come out earlier in the year, and although in my opinion it was not as good as A Nod Is as Good as a Wink... to a Blind Horse, it did have some great and memorable tunes.

Rory Gallagher had opened the show. His band put on a tremendous, though short, set of less than an hour. The anticipation of seeing Rod Stewart and Ron Wood was building. When the lights came on and I could see the band, all I could think was how odd it looked not to see Ronnie Lane in the band and to see Tetsu playing bass. We had seen Tetsu playing bass with Free at Winterland, but with The Faces, without Ronnie Lane, it just seemed (in my mind) that one of the cogs was missing.

The show itself was fantastic, but not quite as good as the first time we had seen The Faces. They were full of energy, their outfits were great, and the band played all the songs that I wanted to hear them play. Rod Stewart was moving about the stage, holding the audience captive while he sang "Miss Judy's Farm" and other fantastic songs. Ron Wood, playing masterful slide guitar while running around the stage, was brilliant. I can remember looking through my telephoto lens, thinking that I had some pretty good shots, but you can never tell until you see them. Then to see them afterward, and some of these images were among the best that I had ever taken.

Thank you, Rod Stewart and Ron Wood. Thank you for a show I'll not soon forget, especially with these photos.







Michael: Seeing The Faces perform at the Cow Palace was a special experience. The concert was general admission, so we waited outside for hours before the show, in order to be among the first ones into the hall. Inside, it was open seating, which meant that all of us were squeezed together, standing on a crowded floor, but it also allowed us to push our way close to the stage. Being within yards of Rod Stewart and the other musicians, even under uncomfortable conditions, was an amazing thing. We actually could get a good look at them as they performed, not merely view them from a distance. We could even hear them converse with one another between songs.

The Faces played their songs with a mixture of easygoing style and incorrigible mischief. The tradition of the music hall was evident in their jolly performance. They clearly saw themselves as old-fashioned entertainers, ready and willing to put on a proper show, rather than being dour musicians who stumbled onto a stage to listlessly play a handful of tunes. The Cow Palace was not the best venue in which to see them, but they still were able to convey a good feeling through their music.

It must be acknowledged, however, that without Ronnie Lane, the collective spirit of The Faces did not come across as effectively. His cockney charm had been a prime element in the overall character of the band. It seemed that after he quit, The Faces were completely overwhelmed by the undeniable power of Rod Stewart's talent, becoming known as "Rod Stewart and The Faces."

As for Rod Stewart himself, he gave his usual performance: thoroughly amiable, totally engaging, and extremely polished. Nowadays he rarely is taken seriously in the musical world (mostly his own fault, after he became too famous for his own good), but in the early 1970s, when he was a member of The Faces, his abilities as a singer, a songwriter, and a performer were truly outstanding. I count myself lucky to have seen him onstage when he was at the top of his game.

In 2009, I had the great pleasure of meeting Ian McLagan, keyboardist with The Faces, when he gave a brief performance at Music Millennium in Portland, to promote his CD, Never Say Never. I found Ian to be cheerful and charming, an openhearted fellow with a quick smile, and I enjoyed hearing his music, which was warm and soulful.

Ian McLagan and Michael
(Photo by Angela Morton)

More about The Faces at David's Rock Scrapbook

Photographs and memories of a performance by The Faces in August, 1972, here

Next: Golden Earring (not British, but an exciting performance and great photos)

5 comments:

  1. You guys really bring these concerts to life with your recollections. It's too bad the good times don't last forever, but having these memories, and writing them down to share them with the rest of us, is great. The pictures, by Dave and Dan, are wonderful.

    Being crammed in and against a stage is no fun, and a few years ago some kids were killed at an AC/DC concert in my hometown in just that situation. You're lucky to lived to tell about it!

    Love your blog, guys.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Since you were all avidly in favor of The Faces throughout the band's beginning and attented this concert, I do have to ask- did you happen to follow the band after Rod Stewart left it and was replaced by a little-known german vocalist? There seem to be no recordings from that time, and I wonder if you might have any memories of that.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I was there that night and felt !. The Faces were disappointing and so OVER, even though I was a huge fan... 2. Earth, Wind and Fire couldn't have been more out of place (awkward!) and 3. Rory Gallagher (whom I had never heard of) was tremendous and I ran right out to buy "Live in Europe" the next day. I still listen to "Deuce" regularly...

    ReplyDelete
  4. I was there as well. It was my first concert I was 16. Rory Gallagher was great EW&F was good I remember a band member playing some kind of instrument with his thumbs.also at one point the Faces had tons of violins backing them up for a few songs. At the end of the show seemed like 1,000 purple ping pong balls dropped to the stage. At least thats how I remember it!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I saw Rod Stewart and faces at The Cow Palace in the 70's, not sure if this was it or not. When I saw them the opening band was Foghat..

    ReplyDelete