Tag Archives: Ariel Bender

Live review: Mott The Hoople ’74 at Shepherds Bush Empire 27/4/19

Back in the early 80s, I was on a voyage of discovery voraciously buying up the back catalogues of some of the great bands of the late 60s and 70s. Many of the big beasts – the likes of Deep Purple and Humble Pie and, yes, Mott The Hoople had called it a day by then. Even though such bands were at their commercial height less than a decade previously they seemed to inhabit a completely different world to the early 80s music world of my teenage years. I loved the records. I absolutely adored both the ‘Mott’ and ‘The Hoople’ albums, in particular, but I never really entertained the idea of seeing Mott The Hoople live on stage. A brilliant slice of rock n roll history? Indeed. But they were the past and I could, at least, enjoy Ian Hunter’s impressive solo career.

That all changed in 2009, of course, when the short run of reunion concerts by the original line-up were announced. Jubilant, emotional and electric the one small niggle about the reunion, and of a further run in 2013, is that while they rightly celebrated the band’s original line-up, they didn’t do justice to the input of the later members – namely Ariel Bender on guitar and Morgan Fisher on keyboards.

Again, I accepted this as a small niggle in an otherwise perfect reunion. I never really entertained the idea that I’d get the chance to see it put right. On the way to Shepherd’s Bush Empire I was feeling quite emotional about having the opportunity to see it become reality after all, and remembering back to the time when I first happened upon this veteran band in a second-hand shop in Preston as a teenager. This was always going to be more than just a gig. I want it to be special. They more than deliver on that.

Songs from ‘The Hoople’ – Mott The Hoople’s brilliant final studio album (and the only one to feature Fisher and Bender) feature prominently: the camp splendour of ‘The Golden Age of Rock n Roll’, the glammed-up deliciousness of ‘Roll Away The Stone’, the glorious insanity of ‘Marionette’ and many more.

At earlier dates on the tour there had been some online disquiet from fans about the quality of Bender’s playing. True, he was never going to be Jimmy Page (or Mick Ralphs for that matter) but his over the top antics and tongue-in-cheek craving for adulation were an essential component of late-period Mott’s 70s stage act – and so it proves tonight. Moreover, Bender’s blunt in-yer-face guitar work really suits the proto-punk of those early Mott songs like ‘Walking With a Mountain’ and ‘Rock n Roll Queen’ that Bender made his own when he became part of the band.

Fisher, always a magnificently talented pianist, when he’s not tottering around the stage with copious glasses of white wine, gives us many wonderful musical flourishes on the keys. With the untimely deaths of Dale Griffin and Overend Watts the ranks of Hooples are sadly depleted but Ian Hunter’s long-time side-kicks in the Rant Band, gifted musicians all, do a seamless job co-opted into the on-stage madness that is Mott The Hoople.

Hunter’s unmistakable voice, as ever, is in fine form. At 80 he shows no signs of slowing down, of losing his grip as a performer or his creativity as a songwriter. However, if this tour is to be the final chapter in the ballad of Mott the Hoople it serves as a fitting end to the career of a wonderful, unique and utterly, utterly irreplaceable band. Mott the Hoople – thanks for a great trip….

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Set-list:

American Pie / The Golden Age of Rock ‘N’ Roll
‪Lounge Lizard ‬
Alice
Honaloochie Boogie
Rest in Peace
I Wish I Was Your Mother
Pearl ‘n’ Roy (England)
Sucker
Sweet Jane
Rose
Walking With a Mountain
Roll Away the Stone
Marionette
Jerkin’ Crocus / One of the Boys
Medley: Rock ‘n Roll Queen / Crash Street Kidds / Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On / Mean Woman Blues / Johnny B. Goode / Violence / Cleveland Rocks / You Really Got Me
All the Way From Memphis
Saturday Gigs
All the Young Dudes

 

https://mottthehoople.com/classof74/

Related reviews:

Ian Hunter at Shepherds Bush Empire 2016

Ian Hunter at Shepherds Bush Empire 2014

Ian Hunter at Giants of Rock 2016

Mott The Hoople Fan Convention 2016

 

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Review: Mott The Hoople Fan Convention 11/6/16

Hereford: the place where it all started for Mott The Hoople back in the 60s and the venue for the 2016 Mott The Hoople Fan Convention. For a band I’d been following since my teenage years back in the 80s (although they’d already long packed up by then) this was something I decided I just couldn’t afford to miss. There’s music, of course, but there’s also Q and A sessions with key figures associated with the band, there’s a fundraising charity auction of Mott memorabilia (proceeds to the Alzheimer’s Society), there’s film screenings and there’s lots (and lots) of opportunities for fans to mingle and chat with both each other and with MTH personnel, both band members and crew. Apart from the time the musicians were actually up on stage, there’s a complete and very refreshing absence of any ‘them and us’ attitudes. And so it wasn’t just in the Q and A sessions you could get first-hand insights into life on the road with Mott The Hoople, you could also get plenty of those just sitting in the bar and chatting, too.

But the music of course, was what brought people together in the first place and the music this weekend had some pretty special moments. First up is local punk band Terminal Rage. There was always a ‘punk-before-punk’ side to Mott anyway, particularly in the early days. But of special interest to Mott fans is that this band features the younger brother of Dale Griffin (MTH drummer who tragically died from Alzheimer’s this year) following in his brother’s footsteps at the drum-stool. Griffin leaves his kit and takes centre stage for one song to sing Bowie’s Starman as a moving tribute to his two musical heroes who died within a week of week of each other this year: David Bowie and his brother Dale.

Fellow Hastings resident, Mick Bolton, who toured as part of Mott The Hoople for a period in the early 70s, is next up on stage for an eclectic mix of numbers, including some pounding rock’n’roll boogie-woogie piano, to Jupiter – from Holst’s The Planets suite, to  a self-composed song originally written as possible material for Mott The Hoople in mind. Circumstances intervened and it was never used by the band but it does capture the vibe of mid-70s Mott the Hoople very nicely and it’s great to hear it performed.

Bolton is then joined on stage by guitarist Luther Grosvenor (who, of course, went by the gloriously rock’n’roll pseudonym of Ariel Bender during his period in MTH) and an ad-hoc band assembled for the occasion. Grosvenor is marking his retirement from live gigging with a special performance tonight. This is the first time that Grosvenor and Bolton have performed on stage together since 1974 and we get a short but explosive set, revisiting key songs from Grosvenor’s long career. Simon Savage (who will return to the stage later in the evening as front-man for the tribute act, Wott The Hoople) provides some great vocals and interacts well with Grosvenor on stage. Notable song highlights include Spooky Tooth’s Better By You Better By Me (the original version of the track that saw Judas Priest up in court on that ludicrous charge where they were accused of encouraging their fans to kill themselves) and a glorious, wonderful, celebratory version of The Golden Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll. A point that was touched on earlier in the day during the Q & A was how Mott The Hoople’s first guitarist, Mick Ralphs, and his replacement, Ariel Bender (AKA Luther Grosvenor) were at opposite ends of the spectrum in their style of guitar playing and in their on-stage personality. Both the modest, unassuming but technically brilliant Ralphs and the explosively bonkers Bender were an essential part of Mott The Hoople’s history. Although sadly, and I would say unjustly, left out of the 2009 and 2013 reunion shows it’s wonderful to have the latter’s contribution celebrated here tonight. Grosvenor gives a heartfelt, emotional thank you to everyone who’s supported him over the years but I do wonder what he’s going to do in retirement. I can’t quite see him digging an allotment. So if he can be persuaded to do the odd bit of gigging here and there I think it would be glorious to see him back on stage with Simon Savage again.

Next up is Herefordshire-based The Troy Redfern Band. His brand of melodic blues rock is normally just the thing I’d be lapping up. But as I indicated earlier, the weekend was always about far more than just watching bands. So I took time out in the bar area: chatting to fellow Hoople fans (one of whom I discovered also shared my love of Fairport Convention and Sandy Denny) chatting to Bob Griffin about having Dale as both an older brother and a musical mentor, chatting to original keyboard player, Verden Allen (who wasn’t performing but still came along to be part of it all) about his experiences of the two reunion shows, chatting to Luther Grosvenor and joining the impromptu lobby to encourage him not to make his retirement quite so final, chatting to Mick Bolton about making the move from Lancashire to London as a young man (something we both did) and many similar conversations besides (as well as a plethora of the inevitable selfies, of course).

It was then back to the front of the stage for the tribute act Wott The Hoople to take part in a joyful, if slightly drunken celebration (certainly on my part by this stage) of Mott The Hoople’s music. A nice touch was getting Stan Tippins up (the original band’s vocalist from the pre-Ian Hunter days, turned MTH tour manager and occasional backing vocalist). They encored with Tippins singing the harmonies on a spectacular All The Young Dudes. A fantastic end to a fantastic day.

Forty-two years after their original demise Mott The Hoople is still a band that’s loved, celebrated and cherished by its many fans – and rightly so.

Thanks to Phil John and everyone else who worked to make this such a memorable event.

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Related reviews:
Ian Hunter at Shepherd’s Bush 2014
Ian Hunter at Minehead 2016
Mick Ralphs at Minehead 2015
Mick Ralphs at Minehead 2016
Mick Bolton at Hastings 2016