TALK about old school – the first time Slim Chance happened upon the Tivoli in 2013 the audience barely numbered double figures; when they came back twice as many turned up and on Thursday night, for their third show in four years, there was a half-decent house.
Quality will out and if there’s one thing this band of brothers can muster, it’s quality. In spades.
They’re united by a connection to Ronnie Lane, the late lamented Small Faces and Faces bassist whose later catalogue is a wealth of overlooked folk-soul-rock-roots classics including The Poacher, How Come, Anniversary and One for the Road – heartfelt songs one and all that put a smile on the face and an ache in the heart.
Three of this line up – bassist Steve Bingham, fiddling squeeze boxer Charlie Hart and guitarist Steve Simpson – played with Ronnie, as did special guest Billy Nicholls (who sang backing vocals for the Small Faces and later wrote I Can’t Stop Loving You, a massive hit for Leo Sayer, which he revisited with Slim Chance).
Drummer Brendan O’Neill was a friend of Lane’s former co-writer Steve Marriot, but completing the line up and right at the heart of it all is pianist Geraint Watkins. Everything he does is effortlessly expressive, from the rich timbre of his bluesy vocals to the easy frills his playing adds to the rollicking but always soulful groove.
When they all hit the spot, as on the beautiful intro to Debris (a Lane classic relegated to a Faces b-side), the effect is transcendent. Pure and simple.
The loose, unassuming, but forceful spirit of Ronnie Lane permeates everything, from the vintage sound of Kuschty Rye with its Motown-esque bass figure and the good-time cover of Leadbelly’s Duncan & Brady, to the end-of-the-night lick applied to the chart hit Ooh La La and, indeed, the originals from their delight-drenched new album On the Move.
It was even there in the impromptu mid-set washboard interjection of Mick’s brother Chris Jagger.
They’re definitely onto something and with this Slim Chance reboot showing no sign of stopping it’s to be hoped enough folk make it next time to really kick up some dust. For Ronnie.