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Ronnie Lane Benefit / April 8, 2004 / London (Royal
Albert Hall)

The excellent tribute concert that took place for
George Harrison at London's hallowed Royal Albert Hall
in 2002 was the exception, not the rule. Multi-artist
benefit shows have a habit of undulating like the
waves, and passengers had better be prepared for the
voyage to be choppy as well as calm, if not insipid as
well as inspiring.

Luckily, this "come-all-ye" in memory of the
much-loved Ronnie "Plonk" Lane was a thoroughly
merited testimonial for an artist who's rarely
received his due. Even before he embarked on a belated
solo career in the 1970s that explored some
challenging new acoustic terrain, Lane had been a key
member of two bands that genuinely helped to define
their eras in the U.K., the Small Faces (1965-69) and
the Faces (1969-73).

Lane died of multiple sclerosis in 1997, and this
tribute was mounted by promoter and lifetime fan John
Hellier to raise money for his family and in aid of MS
research. It's a measure of how long "Plonk" fought
the dreadful disability that he was present for a
previous, similar occasion at the Albert Hall in the
early stages of his illness in 1983.

That evening boasted the contribution of such rock
giants as Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and
Steve Winwood. If its 2004 successor was lighter on
superstar names, it was the prospect of seeing Pete
Townshend, Ronnie Wood and Paul Weller in an unusual
setting that attracted many to take part in the
celebration. Clapton and Sir Paul McCartney sent notes
of good wishes apologizing for their absence.

The opening "half" of the evening featured
well-intentioned but less than inspiring tribute bands
Small World and 17 Black in what largely came across
as a reprise of a 2001 multi-artist memorial to Lane's
colleague, co-writer and Small Faces frontman Steve
Marriott. Ocean Colour Scene raised the standard
considerably with its short set, which included a
well-chosen cover of Lane's later entry, "Done This
One Before."

His band from that era, Slim Chance, reunited after
the interval for its first performance in 25 years,
featuring a line-up that included former Wings
guitarist Henry McCulloch and a version of the 1974
U.K. hit "How Come?" Two punk stalwarts, Glen Matlock
(Sex Pistols) and Mick Jones (the Clash, Big Audio
Dynamite), joined Slim Chance before a first, rousing
appearance by Townshend for "Stone." Then it was the
turn of Weller and Wood, fronting a coherent version
of Lane's enduring "The Poacher."

Townshend's one-time Who colleague Kenney Jones, the
backbeat of the Small Faces' adventures in mod-pop and
onwards into increasingly experimental rock, was then
installed on drums, as a succession of vocalists
turned the pages of Lane's songbook, including Robert
Hart, Sam Brown and 1960s survivors Steve Ellis and
Chris Farlowe.

Townshend's "Heart to Hang Onto," from his 1977
collaboration with Lane, "Rough Mix," was moving both
for his affectionate introduction and its signal that
Townshend's artistic mercury is clearly rising again.
In a second period that ballooned way out of
proportion at some 150 minutes, Wood relived his
guitar runs on the Faces' "Ooh La La" and "Stay With

The spirit was uniformly generous, even if those who
arrived wanting to learn more about Lane's life, times
and loveable nature will have left largely

-- Paul Sexton, London 

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