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Concert Reviews:
Sound mix blows out Mott the Hoople reunion show at the Fillmore

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Saturday, April 6, 2019

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DETROIT -- It was indeed a Golden Age, or at least a golden night, of rock 'n' roll for fans who tripped out to see Mott the Hoople '74 on Friday night, April 5, at the Fillmore Detroit.

Unfortunately, it sounded like crap.

There's no question the sold-out show was one of the most deservingly anticipated of the year so far, a chance to see Ian Hunter, who turns 80 in June, and two of his former bandmates -- guitarist Ariel Bender (nee Luther Grosvenor) and keyboardist Morgan Fisher -- touring together for the first time in, as the group moniker indicated, 45 years. On Friday they rocked with an energy and abandon that belied their ages, and with a setlist of favorites that have been on ice for far too long the Mott crew certainly turned back the clock, for both the musicians and an upper-demo boomer crowd that mingled somewhat comically on Woodward Avenue with fans of pop singer Ariana Grande, playing up the street at Little Caesars Arena.

The musicians -- including the five regular members of Hunter's Rant Band -- did their part, in other words. The band's PA mixer, not so much. The hour-and-45-minute show was far too loud, far too hot, lacking any definition in favor of pure, punishing volume. A distracting hum burdened a fair chunk of the show, while everything from the stage was pushed to such extremes that vocals and particularly solos by Bender and Fisher were brittle and distorted -- a criminal disservice to what was an otherwise triumphant reunion.

Mott, then, had to rest on the sense of occasion to carry the night, which was not to be discounted. Hunter told the Fillmore crowd that he had insisted that Detroit specifically be included on the group's eight-show itinerary, and he took fans back the heyday when Mott straddled a line between pub-style boogie and glam rock, with sophisticated arrangements and intelligent lyrics that in songs such as "The Golden Age of Rock 'n' Roll" and "Saturday Gigs" underscored the nostalgic heft of the evening -- which began with a vintage early 70s recording of David Bowie introducing the band. Hunter himself has not ignored his Mott heritage as a solo act, but it was still a treat to hear the group unearth deeper fare such as "Alice," "Honaloochie Boogie," "I Wish I Was Your Mother," "Sucker," "Pearl 'n Roy," the B-side "Rose" and "Walking With a Mountain."

Mott's biggest moments -- "All the Way From Memphis," "Roll Away the Stone," its adrenalized cover of the Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane" and the show-closing, Bowie-written "All the Young Dudes" -- were, of course, highlights. And the troupe recreated its 1974 concert medley, blending killer favorites "Jerkin' Crocus," "One of the Boys," "Rock and Roll Queen" and "Crash Street Kids" with snippets of oldies ("Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On," "Mean Woman Blues," "Johnnie B. Goode") before Hunter led a vamp of his solo hit "Cleveland Rocks," tweaked, of course, to pay tribute to the Motor City.

Hunter has said this year's trek will be the last go-round for any permutation of Mott. That made the night all the more special, and all the more squandered by the unforgivably wretched sound mix.

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