Now in his late 60s, Ian McLagan has become one of the deeply resonant musicians he admired and was influenced by in his youth. It’s not that he sounds like those blues and R&B singers and players, but that he learned to fully inhabit music, to hold forth with confidence, to grab hold of surprise moments with joyous aplomb.
McLagan’s first success came in the ’60s in the UK with the Small Faces. It wasn’t until a personnel shift and a shortening of the band name to the Faces that he broke into the US market. As a pianist and organist, he’s toured and recorded with Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Billy Bragg, Bonnie Raitt and many others, but it’s with his Bump Band that the breadth of his musical sensibilities take flight. After moving to Los Angeles in the late ’70s, he settled in Austin where he’s lived for the past couple decades.
The economic realities of touring being what they are, Mac (as he is commonly known) is in the midst of a tour with just his bass player, Jon Notarthomas. They played to some 50 people last Friday at the Bearsville Theater, in the more intimate bar setting rather than the larger auditorium. The pair have done this before and, combined with their regular work in the Austin area, have a keen and sympathetic rapport. Notarthomas’ bass lines intermingle subtly with McLagan’s strong left-hand piano work so that the two are sometimes braided together as one instrument, while at other times he blossoms into melodic swoops and shapes.
The two-hour show was a perfect and free-flowing mix of songs from a few of Mac’s albums, a couple Ronnie Lane chestnuts (“Glad and Sorry” and “Debris”), and several from a forthcoming album. Between nearly every one of them, he held forth with tales of rowdiness and hijinks, fatherhood and family, love and death, and the evils of the music business. Some of these appear in his highly recommended 1998 book, All The Rage (recently republished in an updated edition), but with a glass of stout in hand, he happily ambled into all manner of warmly engaging, and often quite hilarious thoughts and memories. A perfect night.