Student Central, University of London
My first ever gig was in November 1971, at Guildford Civic Hall. Mott The Hoople were pre-hits but were the biggest band touring the UK. They had built a solid, 2 year reputation as the best live act in the country, as they rampaged from college to uni to theatre. They were loud, chaotic, shambolic but utterly captivating. That night, I fell in love….with Mott, with lead singer Ian Hunter, and with live music. 46 years later, the love affair still burns bright.
I have seen IH&TRB several times, over the last few years, but this was the best. With a newish album, a 42 year solo back catalogue, plus the Mott Hits, the setlist was a stormer. Starting with That’s When The Trouble Starts, from the new album, Fingers Crossed, the band, and Ian, ripped the roof off the place from the get-go. Throughout the set, there was no let up, with the chords of the next intro starting beneath the thunderous ovation for the previous song. Second up was Ian’s biggest solo hit, Once Bitten Twice Shy, which was a sizeable hit in the USA. Ian moved to Conneticut in ’75 and has been there ever since, touring America pretty much constantly.
The setlist veered back and forth, with newer songs being followed by older solo favourites like All American Alien Boy and Irene Wild. The relentless pace didn’t let up once, except when Ian’s keyboard had brain fade, at the very end of Irene Wild. Keyboard player Dennis DiBrizzi ran across the stage and started to to reboot the thing, Ian leaning into his mic, saying, “Well it’s your keyboard.” Dennis then leaned into Ian’s mic, saying, “Well, perhaps I should be playing it then, boss.” Ian cracked up. After just a few seconds, the problem was fixed and Ian banged out those opening chords to All The Way From Memphis – the place went nuts. Then Ghosts, from the new one, Roll Away The Stone, I Wish I Was Your Mother, 23A Swan Hill, Bastard and into a storming, rocking Sweet Jane (as any fule kno, the Mott version of SJ wipes the floor with the original.)
Back for encores of Dandy (the wonderful tribute to Bowie), Long Time, Life, All The Young Dudes and a verse of Goodnight Irene and the near 2 hour set was done. What a great gig!
How nice to stand in an audience of 50 to 60 somethings and have everyone be so polite. No one talking, people giving each other space, and no ‘pushers-in’, late on. However, student venue or not, a pint of Carlsberg was a bloody fiver (being as how I’d just paid £4.85 for a delicious pint of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, in the Prince of Wales Feathers, behind Warren Street tube, I thought the venue prices might be cheaper. Not a bit of it. I’m guessing it’s not a fiver a pint when there isn’t a gig on?
It made me think..
Ian Hunter is 3 weeks past his 78th birthday. He has more energy than me, leads one of the best, loudest, rockingest live bands you could want to see, and there is more fat on a chip. As he says in his song,
78? Feck off!