Mott The Hoople ’74 @ Masonic Auditorium | Cleveland – 4-6-19 [part the second]
[…continued from last post]
Even though this was a textbook proper rock and roll show, there was only about a half hour between the opening act breaking down and when Mott The Hoople mounted the stage to the strains of…Don MacLean’s “American Pie?” Ian Hunter strode onstage with an acoustic guitar and sang the first verse of the venerable 70s classic, but that was just the extended intro for the glorious “Golden Age Of Rock And Roll;” the first of the evening’s songs to draw from the ’74 album “The Hoople.” The original band members we were here to see were across the frontline of the stage.
Morgan Fisher was stage right on piano. Ian Hunter was center front, and Luther “Ariel Bender” Grosvenor strode stage left like a rock superhero; his wide-legged stance every inch reeked of a Jack Kirby “Thor” panel as he was having a great time of this. The live sound was, thank goodness, superb. The over amped sound of The Dream Syndicate was just a bad memory by now. All of this sounded wonderful and the sold out auditorium was eating this up with a spoon.
The second song out of the gate threw me for a loop. The band delivered “Lounge Lizard” from Hunter’s solo debut album with all of the requisite sass it needed. I had imagined up front that there would be no dipping into the Hunter solo era, so this served to put that idea to bed straight away. Then another helping of “The Hoople” was delivered with the streetwise boogie of “Alice.” Boogie of a second kind was what “Honaloochie Boogie” from “Mott” trafficked in, then the performed a song that I didn’t recognize.
“Rest In Peace” was not from any Mott studio album. It was only on the “Mott The Hoople Live” album from their ’74 tour, which was the other stated blueprint from this era of the band that laid the foundation of this show. Impressive attention to detail! I next got to hear an all time favorite from “Mott” that I first heard on Ian Hunter’s “Welcome To The Club;” possibly my favorite live album of all time. “I Wish I Was Your Mother” was such a paradoxically delicate way of framing why the singing protagonist was such damaged goods. It’s a masterclass in incisive and emotionally vivid songwriting and is one of Hunter’s heartbreaking best. The live performance by this large, capable band gave plenty of spotlight to James Mastro’s mandolin playing. Mastro swapped guitar, mandolin, and sax to play Mr. Pick-Up throughout the set.
It was good seeing the well-loved “Mott” album get nods throughout the evening as well. After the rollicking piano boogie of “Pearl + Roy [England],” “Sucker” delivered the down and dirty funk of “Sucker” for some injection of grit in the right spot. Then came another classic from that album with the killer cover of Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane.” I have to admit that Mott’s cover version vies with the VU original in my head. Mott’s guitar lines transformed [I meant to do that] the song’s character in a new direction. Then came a deep cut, “Rose,” that the B-side of “Honaloochie Boogie!” I only have the track as a bonus cut on the DLX RM of “Mott” but crucially, it was also part of the “Mott The Hoople Live” album track list. There was some attention to detail in getting this set list together.
Then the searing rocker “Walking With A Mountain” from “Mad Shadows” got an airing. It was another one ingrained into me after hundreds of plays of “Welcome To The Club.” Next came one of my favorite Mott songs, the impressively theatrical “Marionette,” which is nothing less than a mental breakdown set to music. Hunter impressively turned the lemons of Mott’s disintegration into lemonade with this song, and I wondered how they would perform it without the manic violins of Graham Preskett as on the album. It turns out I had underestimated the chops of Ariel Bender who made the violin solo his own! The whole band also gave voice to the manic BVs the song was best known for.
Then the last segment of the concert was another throwback to their ’74 live album, with an even longer medley of Mott tunes with a few classic rock and roll covers. Most of their tunes got more than a cursory few bars, thankfully. Rock medleys can be a shortchange, but it felt like about half of their song’s lengths got a chance to shine. I never expected to hear the proto-punk “Crash Street Kidds” so even at a third of its length, I was happily surprised. And really, as rare as these Mott reformations have been, I totally get the notion of performing a medley. Particularly if it fits eight songs into the space of three or four. “Violence” from “Mott” was another shocker, thought I noticed that Hunter had amended the lyric to “violence – violence, it’s the only thing that don’t make any sense” with the wisdom that age provides. And not for the last time that night. And be still my beating heart, it all ended with the pulsating synthesizer of “Cleveland Rocks” playing in the mother city, as well it should be. After hearing “Lounge Lizard,” I had hoped that this one would see the light of day, especially here. Then the set was over.
The band exited the stage for all of 90 seconds before delivering a world class encore, starting with the tremendous “All The Way To Memphis.” The pumping piano of the really shook me as the song began in earnest and I had an unexpectedly powerful reaction to this song. It was always a favorite, but something this evening just set the thrill-o-meter® to eleven for this song. I guess, in a way, it was the iconic Mott song for me and I never imagined that I’d ever be nearing it live. I also noticed that Hunter amended the the lyric to excise the loaded word “spade” and replace it with “dude” in the second verse. More wisdom. That word just doesn’t fly outside of the 70s.
The next song was the all too appropriate “Saturday Gigs,” single from, yep, 1974 again. It made for a perfect valedictory capper to the evening and was I glad I had bought the DL from “Mott The Hoople’s Greatest Hits” before this trip so I would have a chance to hear it finally. And after that, well, there was only one song that we’d expect to hear. The lighters really came out once the iconic guitar intro to “All The Young Dudes” rang out in the Masonic. Of course we all sang along with the chorus as possibly the most anthemic song in rock had given the gift of life-support to a Mott on the brink of ruin, courtesy of Mr. Bowie. With that Mott left Cleveland very satisfied that evening.
These geezers are still able to deliver this deep into their golden years, and for that we should be thankful. Hunter’s vocals have tended to sound thinner on his latest albums, but this show seemed more full bodied than his vocals on albums like “Rant” or “Shrunken Heads.” The three Mott prime members clearly still have it and let’s not forget that Hunter’s Rant band backing them up are no spring chickens either. I certainly never expected the chance of Mott The Hoople in America at this stage in the game, but it certainly justified the time and effort to drive up to Ohio for this. I had sort of given up all hope of seeing Hunter live and the notion of Mott The Hoople was clearly beyond the pale! I would never have entertained it after the three earlier tours from 2009-2015 were UK only events. And for thirty years prior, I never would have entertained even the idea of those handfuls of shows!
The crew at Time Traveler Records the previous day were incredulous that they were only performing eight dates in America, and that they could have had a three to four night run at The Masonic if they so desired. The demand was certainly there for these shows, but at the band’s age, they should throttle back a bit. They have nothing left to prove and if they enjoy the pace, the chances are that the audience will pick up on that happy energy. I know that we certainly did.
Mott The Hoople ’74 | Masonic Auditorium – Cleveland, OH | 4-6-19
- American Pie / The Golden Age of Rock ‘N’ Roll
- Lounge Lizard
- Honaloochie Boogie
- Rest in Peace
- I Wish I Was Your Mother
- Pearl ‘n’ Roy (England)
- Sweet Jane
- Walking With a Mountain
- Jerkin’ Crocus / One of the Boys / Rock and Roll Queen / Crash Street Kidds / Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On / Johnny B. Goode / Violence / Cleveland Rocks – Medley
- All the Way From Memphis
- Saturday Gigs
- All the Young Dudes
– 30 –