It is perhaps odd to think that without cover versions RTM might not be here tonight
It was on a Great White album that we first heard “Once Bitten Twice Shy” – of course we had no idea who Mott The Hoople were back then. A little later Bruce Dickinson covered “All The Young Dudes” on his first solo album and Thunder took to doing “All The Way From Memphis”……
At that point it is perhaps natural that the music obsessive has to check these things out. If you don’t understand, then tonight’s support Colin Brown might. He looks like the sort of person who would just have to check out the bands that his favourite artists covered. Brown is the singer in Driven Like The Snow (no, to be honest, us neither…) but tonight he is armed with just a guitar. One of his songs is “Classic 45” and dedicated to anyone who buys vinyl still, while he knocks out a fairly passable version if “Born To Run” which he dedicates to “anyone who is going to see Springsteen at the Ricoh next Thursday.” As a vinyl buyer who is attending that gig, it appears that RTM and Brown would have much to discuss. It is a pleasant rather than amazing way to spend half an hour.
All the investigations after the aforementioned covers led us to the fact that Mott The Hoople were rather marvelous, which in turn led us to the fact that Ian Hunter makes remarkably good solo records. One of these, last years “When I’m President” is quite superb and RTM went to watch Hunter in his acoustic guise play the Wolves Wulfrun Hall back in March.
That was a very fine evening, but this promises to be even better. This is a warm-up for Hunter’s appearance at the Isle Of Wight Festival, and sees him reunited with his rock group, The Rant Band.
The set is broadly similar to the one a few months back – albeit not quite as long – but this sees him playing stuff more akin to his Hoople days, with a real 70s feel to the lead guitar work. Beginning with “Give You What For” from the “….President” record, he is soon into “…Twice Shy” which frolics along.
Some of Hunter’s solo material is reminiscent of Bob Dylan, and this perhaps best exemplified by “Fatally Flawed” and “Shrunken Heads” both of which reveal a cracked, fragile quality to his voice.
Hunter now lives in the US, and this has informed some of recent material, notably his new albums title track, which sees him wanting to “lean on the 1%” and “stick it to the fat cats” and “Now Is the Time” during which he excoriates the NRA, but his is still a quintessentially British sound – you could only be British to write “…Memphis.”
After ending the main set with the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane,” they are back for a lengthy encore which includes Hoople classics (“Do You Remember) The Saturday Gigs,”and “All The Young Dudes” (with his daughter on vocals), as well his own “Life,” which includes the line “I can’t believe that you are still here, I can’t believe I am still here.”
This is a line laden with all sorts of meanings as Hunter is 74 years old, and has been doing this for over well 40 years. To do it quite so well makes him absolutely remarkable.