Who knew what we were missing all these years?
Mott the Hoople, an influential and cult British band from the golden age of glam-rock, only performed once in the Twin Cities – in 1971, opening act for Emerson, Lake and Palmer at the old Guthrie Theater.
This reservation was a musical mismatch, an untimely date before Mott found success with the David Bowie– wrote “All the Young Dudes” in ’72, then toured the US for the last time in ’74.
Mott the Hoople ’74 – the lineup for Mott 2.0 plus a few new sidemen – gathered for an eight-city tour of the United States before a series of shows in Europe. Boy, we were lucky to be on the route.
Mott’s performance on Tuesday night on crowded First Avenue was an unexpected thrill. Who could imagine that a rock singer, two months under 80, and his band of grizzled veterans could perform with such vigor, boast and wit. It was one of the most exciting rock’n’roll shows at a club in recent memory.
As Ian Hunter delivered vaguely dylanic words with a raspy Rod stewart voices, images of other musical heroes have emerged. There was a bit of Bowiesque theatricality, Queen-like a mix of genres and a lot of Stonesian guitar and horn saxophone.
Ultimately, however, imagine Bruce springsteen with a sore throat in the face of recklessness Faces at their peak. If this sounds like your idea of ââa happy rock ‘n’ roll party, it sure was. And top it off with the cheeky humor of guitarist Hammy Ariel Bender.
“You’re too nice,” the ax man kept saying to the enthusiastic crowd after the songs as he didn’t ask “did we pass the audition?”
Bender replaced the co-founder guitarist Mick ralph, who left to start Bad company, in ’73. Pianist Morgan Fisher, the other surviving musician who toured with Mott in ’74, was also on board this time, with members of the Band of rage, Hunter’s usual backup group.
The 95-minute concert ostensibly tried to recreate Mott’s 1974 “Live” album, the deluxe version that is.
Sporting his dark glasses and blonde curls, Hunter started the evening by singing a little Don McLean ‘s âAmerican Pie,â the 1971 hit, and when he got to the line on âThe Day Music Died,â he stopped and asked, âOr did he? ” Then Mott quickly embarked on his piano-powered celebration of “The Golden Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll”.
Not only was this a clever and exuberant way to start the show in 1974, but the juxtaposition of these two tunes took on new meaning more than four decades later.
Mott ’74 spent the rest of the night proving the music wasn’t dead. Their set list consisted of singles and deep tracks as well as a few covers.
The guitar group covered “Sweet Jane”, the Lou reed classic they had recorded, and Hunter recast Jerry lee lewis‘”Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin ‘On” like a slow motion and minor blues. Other quieter moments worth noting include “Rest in Peace” featuring Fisher’s graceful piano and “Pearl ‘n’ Roy (England)” featuring Jsouls Mastro mandolin.
But Mott is going to rock you, and that’s what they did. With Hunter joining the onslaught of the electric guitar, “Walking with a Mountain” was dazzling. The sax-tipped âAll the Way from Memphisâ was jubilant. Guided by Bender’s nifty slide guitar, “Marionette” was part Bowie, part Stones and all exhilaration.
And there was a six song medley with tunes like “One of the Boys”, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Queen” and “Violence”. For the last issue, Hunter carefully changed the lyrics from “violence, violence, it’s the only thing that’ll make you see meaning” to “violence, violence, that doesn’t make sense.”
During the medley, Mott sprinkled some riffs from the Kinks, Bad company and Chuck berry and even a hint of Hunter’s 1979 solo hit, “Cleveland Rocks”, chanting “Minneapolis rocks” over and over.
The encore brought âSaturday Gigs,â a sort of autobiography of the band’s ups and downs, and the song that made Mott famous, âAll the Young Dudes,â which morphed into a giant song.
Hunter, a thin man in skinny jeans and an acid-washed polo shirt, belies his age. A bit of a business and not too talkative (except when he flirted, as he often does, with a fan during “Dudes”), he could not hide his joy at playing this music from his heyday.
When he and Bender roared on the same mic with the abandonment of two teenagers who had just hatched their rock dreams, it reminded us all – no matter our age – of the euphoria, liberation and complete joy that ‘brings great rock’n’roll.