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Rock on

Saw Mott the Hoople in Birmingham on Sunday night.

I enjoyed it but it didn’t quite live up to Hammersmith Apollo in 2009.

The band that played five nights in London ten years ago was the original line-up with the exception of the drummer, Martin Chambers, who was brought in to replace Dale Griffin (‘Buffin’) who was suffering from dementia.

Griffin did however come on for the encore and the whole event had a poignancy and a level of anticipation that Sunday, perhaps inevitably, lacked.

Ten years ago the original band hadn’t played together for 37 years. In the intervening period some members hadn’t even seen each other and it was reported that the bass player, Pete Watts, hadn’t picked up an instrument for 30 years.

Some wondered if we were going to witness a car crash of epic proportions but somehow it all worked out. Perhaps the low expectations helped but the reviews were downright ecstatic.

A low key tour of England’s larger cities (and a misjudged attempt to fill London’s O2) followed in 2013.

Buffin died in 2016, Watts in 2017, and guitarist Mick Ralphs (who left the band in 1973 for a far more lucrative career with Bad Company) had a stroke from which he’s still recovering.

That, it seemed, was that. Rest in peace, as Ian Hunter sang on one of Mott’s most loved b-sides.

Last year however another version of Mott played three festivals in Europe and it’s that line-up that has been playing dates in America and the UK over the past few weeks.

The eight-piece band includes Hunter’s regular Rant Band plus guitarist Ariel Bender and pianist Morgan Fisher who were with Mott for one and two years respectively at the tail end of their more commercial period.

So it’s Mott the Hoople, but not quite as we knew it.

The reviews however have been unanimously positive, both here and in the States:

Mott the Hoople, Manchester Academy (Lancashire Telegraph)
Mott the Hoople, Symphony Hall, Birmingham (Express & Star)
Mott the Hoople: 2019’s Great Rock Resurrection (Variety)

After the current tour Ian Hunter’s next gig is a gala 80th birthday celebration at the City Winery in New York in June.

Not a bad way for an octogenarian to mark the start of his ninth decade.

PS. Halfway through Sunday night’s concert I had to ask the middle-aged man sitting next to me to stop using his mobile phone.

He had been flicking through Facebook for the best part of 20 minutes.

“It’s a bit distracting,” I said, pointing to the bright white light that was illuminating the screen.

To be fair he put the phone in his pocket. And ten minutes later he got up and left.

That didn’t happen at the Apollo in 2009.

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