LIVE: Ian Hunter & the Rant Band @ Club Helsinki, 8/29/15

September 3rd, 2015, 4:00 pm by Greg

Review by Bokonon

“It’s a mighty long way down rock and roll/from the Liverpool docks to the Hollywood Bowl/ and you climb up the mountains and you fall down the holes/all the way from Memphis…”

Ian Hunter, more than most, knows just what a mighty long way it is. Bursting out of Herefordshire in 1969, Hunter and Mott the Hoople (along with producer Guy Stevens) forged an eccentric version of rock and roll that quickly toughened up as it moved ever towards glam. Hunter’s songs for Mott made good on Lou Reed’s promise of rock and roll for adults, while effortlessly copping a British Bob Dylan version of the tossed-off aside. When Bowie teamed up, all bets were off.

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Like Keith Richards, Hunter has since found the rock star fountain of youth in Connecticut, remaining strong and making new music worthy of the legend.

Hunter hit Club Helsinki in Hudson last Saturday with the five-piece Rant Band in tow, led by by former Bongo James Mastro. At 76, Hunter’s not as fierce as he once was — Mott had a certain malevolence that’s long gone — but his sheer blokiness more than makes up for missing teeth.

And his voice — it’s easy to forget what a glorious rock and roll instrument Hunter owns — is intact and then some. He’s clearly not pushing 80 in his head!

The easy route would be nostalgia, but Hunter’s better than that. He’s written too many classics to be kept bound by a single show, but, kind soul, he did toss out a few for the punters, including “Just Another Night,” “Bastard” and “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” (the latter in full arena mode, despite the intimacy of the well-packed venue).

But more recent songs and deep tracks (did he sing “All American Alien Boy,” yes, he did sing “All American Alien Boy”) were just as satisfying.

“Ta Shunka Witco (Crazy Horse)” was likely the highpoint of the night, a transfixing Native American tribute dressed in spooky slide guitar atmospherics. “Now Is the Time” ran a close second, with Hunter diving down into the song’s emotional core.

A brief spot at the piano found Hunter boogie-ing but good, slapping a hotel bell amidst all the Jerry Lee Lewis licks during “Memphis” and ripping up “Once Bitten.”

Reed’s “Sweet Jane,” an FM hit for Mott in 1972, closed the main set. Now it’s a jaunty celebration of life rather than a streetwise anthem, and Hunter cracked up and smiled while singing, “Me, I’m in a rock and roll band.”

You know what he encored with, but if you weren’t there, you don’t know that Catskill couple Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby popped in for the “boogaloo dudes” of the chorus. The little taste of “Goodnight, Irene” that followed was surprising more for the lack of an “Irene Wilde” segue than its own inclusion.

Hunter, largely forgotten by classic rock radio, is one of the true unsung heroes of the form, but he’s still rocking “from the Liverpool docks to the Hollywood Bowl.” True that.

(I’m The) Teacher
Just the Way You Look Tonight
Who Do You Love
Now Is the Time
Just Another Night
All American Alien Boy
Black Tears
All the Way From Memphis
Once Bitten, Twice Shy
When I’m President
Ta Shunka Witco (Crazy Horse)
23A Swan Hill
Sweet Jane
All the Young Dudes
Goodnight, Irene

3 thoughts on “LIVE: Ian Hunter & the Rant Band @ Club Helsinki, 8/29/15”

  1. Michael Hochanadel says:

    You nailed it, Commodore Bokonon: vivid, I say

  2. Mike H says:

    Very nice review- sorry to have missed it, but now felt like I almost didn’t.

  3. Great to hear he’s still keeping on; one of the great undervalued songwriters of our times, I think.

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