Who: Ian Hunter and the Rant Band
Where: Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
When: October 4th 2014
So we gathered at the front of the stage with all the old dudes, waiting for the band to take the stage and wondering what Mr Hunter would serve up for us tonight. In truth, it was to prove fairly predictable. But predictable isn’t always a bad thing if it comes with passions — and this did. Ian told us he has nothing new to sell. So consequently, we were treated to a collection of his best solo moments, and all the great Mott the Hoople hits from long ago and a smattering of more obscure songs from both eras to please the most dedicated fans.
After an opening set from Federal Charm, the Rant Band took the stage to be followed by their illustrious leader. They opened with “(I’m the) Teacher” but the band really hit their stride as Mr Hunter served up the “‘ello, ‘ello, ‘ello” introduction to “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” which was Ian’s biggest solo single when it broke into the chart some forty years ago.
This is the impressive thing tonight. The audience are passionate – some seem to border on the fanatical and a fair chunk of them have stayed with Hunter throughout his long and up-and-down journey to being regarded as one of rock’s elder statesman. Having being rewarded for their loyalty by the Mott the Hoople reunions of the last few years, it is clear that the frontman can now do no wrong whether with his erstwhile bandmates or solo,.
So where did we go from there? First, through a smattering of solo tracks highlighted by “Something to Believe”, “Now is the Time” and the recent fan favourite “When I’m President”.
They then followed that up with “Boy” which should have been an hit when it was released as a single from his debut eponymous solo album. Some have taken its opening line “Genocidal tendencies are silly to the extreme” as a reference to David Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs” and its admonition to “Put the Coke away” as a shot across the bows of the lifestyle of the man who had saved Hoople by his gift of their biggest hit but whatever the motivation for the songwriting, the crowd were glad to hear it in the set tonight.
After that it was a string of Mott the Hoople-era compositions highlighted by an achingly beautiful “I Wish I Was Your Mother” and leading up to a great sing-a-long version of “All the Way From Memphis” with bassist Paul Page leading audience participation.
Then it was back into solo territory for another run of songs from Hunter’s albums old or new. Another song from “When I’m President”, “Ta Shunka Witco (Crazy Horse)” fared well here with Steve Holley giving it a deep rhythm and beat on the drumkit which captured the intent of the lyric of the song perfectly.
Here also we had “Flowers” and “Wash us Away” with rich and deep guitar work lead by Mark Bosch on lead.
As well as “Ta Shunka Witco”, the main set wound out with full-blooded renditions of the caustic “Bastard” and Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane”. Encores are inevitable but when their were so many hits missing from the main set tonight they were doubly so. Mick Ralphs (of Mott the Hoople and Bad Company etc. etc.) had joined the troupe on stage by now as they took a fully charged run through lots more that you would want to hear.
Amongst the encores were “Roll Away the Stone” and a slightly disorganised “All the Young Dudes” where the whole touring party (including the support band) seemed to have joined the group on stage but whilst this wasn’t the tightest performance, this was the last song of the last night of the tour and so it was party-time.
A great night out. A great show. And an unusually high standard of sound quality for the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Mr Hunter and his touring carnival delivered as much as we could have hoped for and some more. And I think he had as much fun doing it as we did watching it and singing along.