Mott The Hoople performed at the Miller High Life Theater in Milwaukee on Monday.
You would be excused to think this is an April Fool’s Day joke.
The influential British rock band has not performed in the United States for 45 years. But there they were – Ian Hunter, Ariel Bender and Morgan Fisher – kicking off an eight-city tour of the United States (their latest, Hunter said) in the same building they last performed in Milwaukee. in 1974 (when it was called Milwaukee Auditorium).
Monday’s show started off the same way too, with Hunter singing a few bars of Don McLean’s “American Pie” while Fisher tickled the ivories, his right arm playfully shaking as he sang “But February to me.” made shivers “.
“Something touched me deep inside / The day the music died,” Hunter sang – before adding an “Or did it”.
And with that, the band burst into the boogie swing of Mott’s original “The Golden Age of Rock and Roll”, with guitarist Bender strutting like a peacock in his red beret and checkered pants – but with the jerky legs of a chicken – its squirming hips and fingers pricking the air.
Granted, Bender’s guitar skills on Monday didn’t quite match his flamboyance, but there was a charm in Bender’s childlike joie de vivre. And it was a thrill every time his jerky, filthy licks turned into dazzling heroic deeds.
Fisher, although relatively more subdued, also had a taste for the theater, with a scarf that resembled piano keys and a glass of champagne lit by a green light. He threw the champagne in the air before a sweet and rhythmic cover of “Sweet Jane” from Velvet Underground.
He was also an impressive pianist, especially on elegant passages and a B-side intro “Rest in Peace”.
Hunter said the Mott Tour was a chance for his two living 74-roster comrades to get their due, and Bender and Fisher clearly relished the spotlight. Hunter himself, however, was a fairly low-key presence, until that familiar vocal style – with traces of Bob Dylan’s untamed cadence and David Bowie’s drama – came to life for the eighth song of the evening, “Roll Away the Stone”.
With the support of Hunter’s longtime band, the Rant Band – especially James Mastro, who provided crucial saxophone parts, and a lovely mandolin solo for a shimmering “I Wish I Was Your Mother” – Mott pleaded in favor of their prominence Monday with enduring rock classics like “All the Way From Memphis” and “All the Young Dudes” written by Bowie.
But it was in the less advertised material that we could see why the band had influenced bands like Queen, Cheap Trick, The Clash and many more.
It was most evident Monday night during “Marionette”, from the 1974 album “The Hoople”. A classic that should have been with Mott in its most unpredictable, unbalanced and ornate form, Mott captured much of the chaos of the song, from Hunter’s “I wanna get out” delusions to Bender’s insane laughter.
That same quirky humor and insatiable energy emerged in a dizzying, climactic mix – which, too, was a nod to Mott’s set lists in 1974. It included five Mott originals, a quivering rendition of “Whole Lot” of Shakin ‘Going On “by Jerry Lee Lewis and a dash of the Kinks’ immortal” You Really Got Me “guitar riff – all leading to a” Milwaukee Rocks “call and response with the capacity crowd.
“We love coming to Milwaukee,” Hunter said at the end of the hour and 40 minutes. “You’re the only place in the country where when you get here people thank you for coming. Nobody else does that.”
Considering Milwaukee was one of the only places in the country to see Mott live, there was good reason to be grateful.
Overture The Suburbs was practically as large as a peewee football team – nine members in total, large enough that a few members could afford to dance slowly for most of a song. The Minneapolis-born band reached their commercial heyday in the ’80s, but they sounded superbly on Monday, creating an overwhelming wall of sound and an incredible argument for their 21st century material strength with “Hey Muse!” and “Love is the law”.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story misquoted Hunter’s comment after “American Pie” and named the wrong song title that featured James Mastro’s performance on the mandolin. The story has been corrected and we regret the error.
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TO TAKE THEM
- Mott only does eight concerts on this US tour, none of them on the West Coast. And so a few fans came from Los Angeles, Phoenix and Seattle, said Doug Johnson, vice president of entertainment and sports for the Wisconsin Center District, which operates the Miller High Life Theater.
- Earlier today, Mott spent time at the Milwaukee Press Club, where they received a framed proclamation from Tom Barrett announcing that Monday was Mott The Hoople Day. Hunter showed the proclamation during the show, at the start of the encore.
- Joke example: Bender: “Did we pass the audition?” Morgan: “Some of us.”
THE SET LIST
1. “American Pie / The Golden Age of Rock and Roll”
2. “Living room lizard”
4. “Honaloochie Boogie”
5. “Rest in peace”
6. “I would like to be your mother”
7. “Pearl ‘n’ Roy (England)”
8. “Roll the stone”
9. “Sweet Jane” (Velvet Underground cover)
11. “Walking with a mountain”
12. “All the way from Memphis”
14. “Jerkin ‘Crocus” / “One Of The Boys” / “Rock and Roll Queen” / “Crash Street Kids” / “Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin ‘On” / “Violence”
15. “Saturday concerts”
16. “All the young guys”
Piet also talks about concerts, local music and more on “TAP’d In” with Jordan Lee. Listen to it at 8 p.m. Thursdays on WYMS-FM (88.9) or wherever you get your podcasts.