Mott the Hoople
5 April 2019
I recently took my dinosaurs of rock experience to a new level. Mott the Hoople made Detroit one of the eight US dates on their “Mott the Hoople ’74” tour. When a friend called with tickets to see 79-year old Ian Hunter and his old buddies Morgan Fisher on keyboards and Ariel Bender (nee Luther Grosvenor) on guitar, how could this old classic rock hack say no? The ’74 refers to the fact that Fisher and Bender didn’t join the group until that year, just after Mott’s classic period.
The Hoople has always resided with the likes of Procol Harum, T Rex and even the Kinks in my mind. They’re a legendary and influential UK group that had some success in the States, but ultimately were deemed “too English” by American A&R people. (For those who, like me, didn’t know where the name came from, Wikipedia tells me that their first manager took it from a Willard Manus novel of the same name about an eccentric who works in a circus freak show.) It was great to hear some gems from their rich catalog for the first time. (check the set list below)
I must say, they sounded great. Even though Ian Hunter will turn 80 in June, his gruff baritone voice has aged extremely well. Morgan Fisher enjoyed tweaking the band’s critics by calling to the crowd, “Is this too much piano music for you?” And Bender hit all the signature riffs and hooks, sporting a look that was sort of court jester meets aging French new-wave chick. They had a lot of help from the young dudes of the Rant Band, who regularly support Hunter on his solo shows.
The band brought a ton of ensemble energy, complete with a little prototypical rock saxophone. Highlights for me were the UK hits “Honaloochie Boogie” and “Roll Away the Stone.” But I was most surprised by how emotional I got on the ballad “I Wish I Was Your Mother.” I stared into the dome halo of this venerable theater and could see my late mother smiling at me. My buddy was like, “Why are you crying, pussy?” Fair enough, as the lads kicked into the killer encore, featuring “Saturday Gigs” and of course “All the Young Dudes.” (see my eyewitness video below)
Thanks to these old juvenile delinquent wrecks for bringing their circus freak show to the D. And thanks to my boy Randy I didn’t miss it.