First Night: Mott the Hoople, The Apollo, Hammersmith
Friday 02 October 2009
Eyebrows were raised when Mott The Hoople's initial reunion shows at the Hammersmith Apollo sold out so fast that further dates had to be added, and then some more. One expects the likes of Led Zeppelin to inspire fond affection on a sizeable scale, but dear old Mott? Who knew there was such a collective yearning for the glam boogie monsters?
Well, everybody here tonight, for starters. I've seen a few reunion shows in recent years, including the Cream and Zep shows, and I can honestly say that none elicited quite the genuine waves of joy – as opposed to reverence or awe – as Mott did tonight. Their fans clearly view them more as mates than rock gods, an attitude which Ian Hunter's bluff, self-deprecating banter does nothing to dispel.
Not that their repertoire didn't rely heavily on the classic rock mythos, with louche anthems such as "Rock'n'Roll Queen" and a cover of The Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane" greeted with huge roars of acclaim, and the hit "The Golden Age Of Rock'n'Roll" pivoting on the principle "gotta stay up, never grow old".
For the audience, this is a principle best realised on foot: unlike other reunion shows, Mott's audience stays stood up from the moment the band step onstage, causing Hunter to observe that it was the first time they'd had a standing ovation for the entirety of their set.
Though best known for their glam-era successes, the band were originally formed in the late '60s by producer Guy Stevens, who wanted to create a group that sounded like Dylan being backed by the Stones. They were just about to throw in the towel when David Bowie threw them the lifeline of "All The Young Dudes". But that original formula continued to dominate their live shows, best represented tonight by the "Jumpin' Jack Flash" chant which concluded the anthemic "Walkin' With A Mountain", seguing into a minute or two of "Like A Rolling Stone".
One of the great misconceptions about glam-rock was that, being built on gender uncertainty, it was somehow soft and fluffy. This was far from the truth: there were plenty of '70s glam hardnuts just itching for lairy fun, and Mott The Hoople offered them plenty of no-frills boogie, exemplified by the swaggering "Honaloochie Boogie" and "All The Way From Memphis" that close tonight's set with a sort of sledgehammer grace.
But it's a few lines from "One Of The Boys" that perhaps sum up Mott's appeal best: "I'm one of the boys that don't say much, but I make a big noise."
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