Lets tear up the rulebook.
The idea that rock n roll is the preserve of the young and the hip has been dealt a mighty blow by the amazing Mott The Hoople. As much as anyone I’m always hooked on the thrill of the new and I’m always out there searching but I’m also not scared to embrace the past.
At one time reformations were a bad thing- remember the Velvet Underground’s rather disinterested performances a decade ago? Now bands seem to have worked out how to do this getting back together thing and Mott played out one of the best gigs I’ve ever been too…
It was a joyous affair- as sentimental, powerful, heartfelt, passionate and thrilling as the band were at their prime. Oddly I didn’t feel nostalgic- I tried to- feeling that was perhaps the right context for this- but Mott played with so much fire it felt like a band at the peak of their powers.
Mott came armed with two hours of great songs that underlined their credentials- they had everything- brilliant songs stuffed full of imagination and a down to earth charisma that saw the Hammersmith Apollo ooze with a genuine love for the band.
There is something magical about watching a band this great taking the stage again after 35 years and play a set this good.
Frontman Ian Hunter, now 70, looked amazing- infact better than in the band’s heyday and his powerful rasping voice cut through. His vocals were always one of the band’s key signatures and, for me, he has one of the great British voices as he sung with a passion that is missing from so much music.
Put together by legendary late producer Guy Stevens in the late sixties and armed with heartfelt lyrics and anthemic songs, Mott was the quintessential British street band that was looking at the stars. They were the ultimate proto punk band who influenced so many of the next generation bands and several of the generations after that as well- with both Oasis and Blur agreeing on something for once in their love of the band.
They also looked great, Hunter with his corkscrew hair and shades and bassman- the fantastically named Overend Watts with his silver hair and stack heeled boots- Watts invented that look- the New York Dolls supported Mott and copped the whole of his look- it’s a crime that he’s been semi- forgotten in the linear narrative of rock n roll because he came from Hereford and not New York City- I demand a recount! They also looked real- like they had thought of the look themselves and not been dressed by some record company stylist.
This week the pair of them owned the stage- Hunter the seasoned rock star and Watts whose not been on stage for 35 years throwing shapes with his pink thunderbird bass and assortment of nooses tied round his neck, they looked as brilliantly eccentric as in their prime.
Mott managed that balance between making sparkling, glamtastic anthems, stunning melancholic ballads that described their world and heavy droog street songs. They were our Springsteen, our Dylan, our Stones and when the Clash came along in punk former Mott follower Mick Jones took up their mantle. Mick was at the gig the other night and he was getting very misty eyed as he talked about the band that he used to follow round the country.
Glam rock is one of those needlessly maligned scenes and Mott, whether they were glam or not, were proof of the artfulness of the form. They stuffed their songs full of imagination and music hall twists, they had the power and precision of a great rock band and these five nights at the Apollo were a deserved curtain call for one of the GREAT British bands…
Hopefully they can be persuaded to play again…