Tag Archives: fan convention

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

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Slade UK and Pouk Hill Prophetz at Wolverhampton 19/3/16

We’re in an era of rock history where bands’ fiftieth anniversaries are increasingly common. The Stones did a world tour,including a celebrated gig in Hyde Park. All the surviving leading members of the Beach Boys reunited and The Who had a well-received anniversary tour which packed out arenas, too. Now it is the turn of Slade, a band who had their breakthrough in the early 70s but who formed in the 60s, when Noddy Holder and Jim Lea joined Dave Hill and Don Powell in an existing band called the N Betweens, a band that would eventually be renamed Slade. It’s exactly fifty years since the four first shared a stage together but there’s no big reunion of the original members, no sell-out gigs at the O2 or the Wembley Arena and no wall to wall press coverage. Instead, the occasion is celebrated with a fans convention in the aptly named, though modestly-sized, Slade Rooms in Wolverhampton where there are performances from a couple of tribute acts, Slade UK and the Pouk Hill Prophetz.

Throughout the afternoon and early evening there’s a Slade quiz; there’s some Slade-related poetry from stand-up poet, Paul Cookson (who perhaps is to the glam rock genre what John Cooper Clark is to punk); and there’s even a speech and formal welcome from the Mayor of Wolverhampton. The Pouk Hill Prophetz play the first of their two sets, an all-acoustic set that delivers acoustic versions of well-known classics like Coz I Luv You and Cum On Feel The Noize, as well as far more obscure material that fans of Slade seldom get to hear in public.

The Pouk Hill Prophetz came together through their shared love of Slade. They’re not a tribute act in the classic sense, in terms of dressing up and adopting the persona of individual band members, and they don’t restrict themselves purely to Slade’s back catalogue either – they throw in a couple of Sweet and T-Rex numbers in the evening set. But in both their earlier acoustic set in the bar and their later evening set on the main stage their love for Slade’s music clearly shines through. Where the band really excel, particularly in the later set, is in the delivery of pre-glam era “before they were famous” Slade songs – stunningly authentic versions of songs like Know Who You Are and Dapple Rose from 1970’s Play It Loud album, for example. Indeed, one of the highlight’s of the whole day is when, drummer, Trevor West’s 13 year old daughter takes the stage to play a beautiful rendition of the violin solo on Dapple Rose, the first decent violin rendition I’ve heard on a Slade song since the classically-trained Jim Lea stopped performing with the original band years ago.

Slade UK are more of a traditional tribute act. They dress like early 70s Slade and vocalist Nidge (Nod) Hillam arrives on stage replete with enormous sideburns, lots of tartan and a mirrored top hat. In the past I’ve tended to be a bit sniffy about tribute acts – of all genres. Slade UK are bloody good though. In fact, the voice of the lead singer is far closer to the raw power and sound of Noddy Holder than Holder’s actual replacement in the modern-day Slade, Mal McNulty. There’s a real energy to the musicianship, too, and they capture the authentic sound of Slade perfectly. As with the previous act, it’s not just about delivering the well-known hits either. We get B sides, we get songs that were never performed live by the original band and we get songs from many different eras of Slade, stretching from the early days right through to the band’s very final hit single, 1991’s Radio Wall Of Sound. Loud and blisteringly authentic they do the band proud. There can be only one song to finish though: the band return to the stage with Santa hats, fake snow pumps out from the stage and the familiar opening chords signal the start of the greatest Christmas song ever made…

The night may have lacked the huge arenas, the enormous crowds or the wall-to-wall press coverage associated with other famous bands’ fiftieth anniversaries. But there is no lack of love for Slade and their music here tonight and both acts do the band and its fans proud.

http://www.sladeuk.com/

slade uk

Related reviews:
Slade at Minehead
Slade at Hastings