Live review: Mott The Hoople in Newcastle
Verden Allen has a vivid recollection of the night Mott The Hoople rather foolishly let off fireworks within Newcastle’s City Hall. Back in the day such outrageous rock and roll behaviour was, of course, par for the course where David Bowie’s favourite band was concerned.
Five months prior to that explosive Bonfire night set, the same rabble-rousing quintet caused an infamous ruckus at London’s Royal Albert Hall and their hell-raising antics were at the heart of an incendiary live show guaranteed to pack out venues across the nation.
Fast-forward 42 years and Mott are just a little less dangerous but, judging by this capacity crowd, no less of a draw. More likely to spark a health scare than a riot, Allen and his colleagues do, nevertheless, continue to inspire a keen devotion in their most loyal fans.
None keener, of course, than self-confessed Mott groupie Joe Elliott, who joins Ian Hunter for a rousing rendition of All The Young Dudes during the chaotic yet heartfelt climax to this fascinating show. Following his favourite band the length and breadth of Britain, Def Leppard’s ardent frontman could be accused of stalking his idols were it not for the fact that his high-profile patronage has proved pivotal in encouraging the critical re-evaluation and creative elevation of their work.
Elliott is in no mood to explode the myth where Mott is concerned. However, this two-hour set offers compelling evidence that Guy Stevens’ vehicle for global glam rock domination was always good – just never that great.
Their reputation enhanced by more than three decades on the sidelines, Mott are a classic example of absence making the heart grow fonder. The lean years have been largely forgotten, the very public personal conflicts put to one side, and the Top 40 hits – all six of them – lauded as one of British rock music’s most influential canons.
The reality borne out tonight is that Hunter made the most of his limited time working alongside Allen, Mick Ralphs, Overend Watts and Dale Griffin. For five years Mott’s endearing evolution from hot live tickets to Top Of The Pops staples gripped Bowie, Elliott et al but longevity was never their destiny. Hunter capitalised on a fertile songwriting period between 1971 and 1974 before, by his own admission, the songs dried up: even a two-hour City Hall set sags in the middle such is the paucity of truly affecting rock and roll anthems here.
Like all compelling stories, however, tonight’s retrospective tale starts with a bang and boasts an equally thrilling denouement. Opening up with Rock And Roll Queen (the standout track on 1969’s patchy debut), One Of The Boys (featuring the prototype riff for Ralphs’ Bad Company classic Can’t Get Enough), The Moon Upstairs (Martin Chambers’ chance to ‘do a Buffin’) and Hymn For The Dudes, the instant adrenaline rush is palpable.
However, Waterlow is a mid-set low and Walkin’ With A Mountain sounds as ridiculous now as it did in 1970. Hunter tries valiantly to inject new life into a song that’s mediocre at best – Ralphs, however, looks wholly unconvinced and Allen almost embarrassed.
Thankfully a visceral version of Violence ups the ante prior to the bona fide Mott classics in all of their glammed-up glory. Honaloochie Boogie is brilliant, Hunter nails All The Way From Memphis and Elliott enhances a glorious ‘Dudes.
A false start can’t spoil Roll Away The Stone and Hunter even manages to break a string in an ironic nod to his destructive past. An emotive Saturday Gigs provides a fitting finale with band and fans waving as one in bidding a fond farewell.
Who will remember this Saturday gig? We will…but not necessarily for all of the right reasons.
Words: Simon Rushworth / Photos: John Burrows
Tags: Mott The Hoople