The announcement that legendary rockers Mott The Hoople were embarking on a jaunt round the UK was met with a great deal of excitement among the classic rock fraternity. The reunion of the classic line-up meant that this was going to be the real deal, and the addition of Marillion as special guests was just the icing on what was already a fairly unmissable cake.
And then… this happened…
“Following a breach of our original agreement with the concert promoter, we have no choice but to pull out. It is therefore with great regret and apology to Marillion’s fans and to Mott The Hoople (who we respect enormously) that we must cease involvement in this event.”
Right, so no Marillion then… Bugger. Well there is one thing they could do to keep all the veteran prog-merchand’s fans on-side, and that’s exactly what the organisers did when they signed up the one and only Fish to kick things off.
The great man took to the stage in front of a still-quite-empty o2, with a stage time so close to the doors opening people were just starting to filter in, but the fans hanging around in the many bars and eateries outside the venue mussed a treat. Now Marillion were the first band I ever got REALLY into waaaay back in the day, and this was a long overdue re-acquaintance with a musician who did more to shape my musical tastes than just about any other. Among an all-too-brief selection of his solo material, the highpoint of the set (for me, anyway) was when Fish said “I’m going to take you on a journey”, before the band launched into a medley of classic Marillion material that included Assassing, Credo, Tongues, more of Assassing then the end section of Fugazi.
Nice to see Thunder are still taking themselves way too seriously. After a typically overblown intro they eventually got down to the business of showing just exactly why they have had such a remarkable longevity. Whatever you may think of their music and their “We’re going now… surprise we’re back” series of last ever tours and festival appearances there is no denying that there is a lot of love out there for Thunder and their addition to the bill was a welcome one.
It’s easy to forget how Thunder, like a good many of their contemporaries, have some real classics in their back catalogue, and let’s face it you can’t go far wrong with the likes of Backstreet Symphony and Love Walked In.
The cavernous interior of the 02 was starting to fill up as the time approached for the main event, although there were still an awful lot of empty seats. Apart from their big hits I didn’t really know a great deal about Mott The Hoople, and I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, especially as I’d heard conflicting reports on the shows so far.
As I mentioned earlier, this was the classic Mott lineup, back together for one last hurrah (well, as close to the classic lineup as possible, with drummer Dale Griffin too ill to take part, so ex-Pretender Martin Chambers deputised for him behind the kit).
There is no denying that Ian Hunter still looks, sounds and acts the part, the aloof rockstar with his shades and his uber-cool maltese cross guitar, but… well… OK I know this is the classic lineup, and probably a last chance to see, but I just didn’t feel there was much in the way of a connection or interaction, either within the band or between the band and the audience. The venue definitely didn’t help to be fair, it’s hard to get much of an atmosphere going in there at the best of times but I did find myself wishing we were somewhere a little more intimate.
It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what was missing but there was just no real spark there. Hunter did what he does so well, dominating the stage while bassist Overend Watts made sure that the frontman wasn’t the only focus of attention.
Watts looked like he was enjoying every second of his time up on stage, and he provided the band with a much needed point of connection with the audience, beaming from ear to ear and looking like he actually wanted to be there, much to the delight of the crowd and the relief of the assembled pack of photographers. Set-wise, as you’d expect all the boxes were ticked. Mott The Hoople are one of those bands where you know more of their songs than you think you do, and tonight we were treated to the obvious selection of the biggest hits with some slightly less well known tracks thrown in to please the ardent fans..
On the whole it was a gig that would certainly have delighted the band’s long term followers and no one would ever question the strength of the tunes but alas, for me, overall it just seemed a little bit flat. I think to sum it up I’d say It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and there’s nothing quite like watching an authentic performance of truly great songs. I was certainly glad that I made the trek down to London to catch the legends before they hang up their boots for the last time. The years may have blunted the edges of Mott The Hoople’s rock’n’roll excesses but there is always something special about being in the presence of a truly iconic band, genuine forefathers who were so influential over the scene we have today.
And the biggest lesson of the evening, Ian Hunter has undeniably still got “it”, and from what I saw here I’d recommend you catch him next time he brings the Rant Band around…
That’s certainly my plan.