Review: Mott the Hoople, Symphony Hall

Our rock blogger was at Birmingham's Symphony Hall watching Mott The Hoople last night.

The whole point of rock is that is needn't be – shouldn’t be – packaged, airbrushed and perfect.

Thank goodness then for the reunited Mott the Hoople, beamed down from the 70s in all their raw, ramshackle glory – four fifths of the original line-up and a more unlikely bunch than its possible to imagine in the refined space of Symphony Hall.

That Oswestry-born signer and guitarist Ian Hunter still sounds exactly like he used to in 1973 - amazing. That he somehow, now aged 74, remains lithe, lean and clearly still hungry is astonishing.

But Hunter it unmistakably is. under his corkscrew hair and hidden, as ever, behind huge shades.

With celebrity acolyte Joe Elliott of Def Leppard in the audience for the first of five British dates, Hunter led Mott The Hoople through a near two-hour set, which - admittedly somewhat unevenly - meandered its way through album tracks and fan favourites before arriving at its hit-packed conclusion.

The failure of the lighting rig in the opening three-song salvo somehow added to the sense of occasion.

“Something went wrong, as usual,” joked Hunter, after Rock and Roll Queen gave way to One Of The Boys and then Moon Upstairs, guitarist Mick Ralphs standing rock solid on the left in the gloom and bassist Overend Watts and keyboard player Verden Allen on the right.

The only original member missing from the night was drummer Dale Griffin, sidelined by Alzheimer's and replaced on tour by Martin Chambers of The Pretenders (collection buckets for the Alzheimer's Society were passed among the audience).

Birmingham-born Overend Watts took on lead vocal duties for Born Late '58, announcing: “I was born here in the 80s . . . the 1880s!”

But if the first two-thirds of the show were aimed at die-hard fans then the final run-in and encores were purely crowd pleasers, predictable as that might have been. For those only familiar with the big glam rock-tinged hits it might have seemed a long wait.

Never mind, David Bowie may have given Mott The Hoople their biggest hit in All The Young Dudes, but Mott topped it themselves with the magnificent Roll Away The Stone.

That classic duo, along with The Golden Age of Rock and Roll, All The Way From Memphis, Honaloochie Boogie and Saturday Gigs helped bring the evening to a raucous, triumphant close.

By Ian Harvey
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