Music review: Ian Hunter, Bloomsbury Theatre, London


"You know how it is, you get into a conversation about prostates and it never ends," the sprightly 73-year-old quips after his wee departure before the giddy encore. "You are a god," a devotee yells upon Ian Hunter's return at this intimate venue.

"We never seemed to be in our own time," Hunter once confessed about Mott the Hoople, the glam/hard-rock act he fronted in the early Seventies, and a British band adored by a fiercely loyal fanbase that includes The Clash's Mick Jones and, of course, David Bowie. The Thin White Duke famously resuscitated the beleaguered outfit by generously gifting them his glorious anthem "All the Young Dudes".

Hunter, sporting his trademark shades and his carefully corkscrewed hair, delivers a charming, low-key acoustic performance, ably accompanied by Dave Roe on upright double bass and the outstanding Andy York, lead guitarist for John Mellencamp, on electric guitar.

The generous set mainly consists of solo tracks from last year's robust When I'm President, and includes the barbed title track on which Hunter sticks it to the avaricious "one per cent": "Like thieves on the holy road/ Digging up the mother lode/ Like pirates on the open sea/ Like highway robbery".

The song's delivered, along with most of Hunter's material, in a rich timbre uncannily reminiscent of Dylan circa "Most of the Time". In fact, his plaintive howls make him sound like the missing Travelling Wilbury, particularly on new songs such as the pretty "Just the Way You Look Tonight" and the raucous, honky-tonk "Wild Bunch". The Shropshire-born singer, who now resides in Connecticut, directs most of his concerns (the 28th amendment, the Rio Grande, Shoshone Indians) at the States.

Stronger tracks, especially lyrically, are his 1975 hit "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" (with the memorable "You didn't know what rock'n'roll was/ Until you met a drummer on a greyhound bus") and the evocative "Girl from the Office", from 2009's underrated Man Overboard.

This terribly civilised experience does fall a tad flat in the middle, but the vigorous Hunter never flags; he actually appears to be shedding years in front of us. "I don't what you were expecting, but this is what you got," he informs us before striding off stage after a delicious version of "Sweet Jane". He returns, encoring, inevitably, with the sumptuously sentimental "Roll Away the Stone" and, of course, "All the Young Dudes". His small army of "boogaloo dudes" faithfully join in.