“Here’s one from the new album!” – a phrase from any veteran rock’n’roller usually guaranteed to prompt a stampede to the bar.
Not so Ian Hunter. He’s certainly not shy in unveiling material from his newly-released 20th solo album, When I’m President. He even opened with the unreconstructed boogie of Comfortable (Flyin’ Scotsman) and the very Dylanesque Fatally Flawed which came punctuated with impressively spiky guitar riffs.
Sandwiched in between was his most famous solo outing, the still glorious Once Bitten, Twice Shy – with a trademark killer singalong chorus.
Wash Us Away returned to the politically-charged 2001 album Rant which gave birth to his backing band who serve these songs well throughout.
A rollicking All The Way From Memphis with Hunter pounding away at the keyboard was the first outing for Mott The Hoople in the set – received with great delight by the old faithful, naturally.
As he worked up a sweat and mopped his brow, those ever-present shades stayed very much in place. Some things never change, and quite right, too. This is old school rock, after all.
All American Alien Boy was partly utilised for various instrumental solos. A gracious move on the part of Hunter perhaps but the show lost a little momentum. The only other misfiring portion was on another fresh effort, Just The Way You Look Tonight. While not as mawkish as its title may suggest, this plod rocker lacked his usual bite.
We were on surer footing though with another sterling newbie, the anthemic ballad Black Tears.
Two classic covers were given very different treatments. There was a plaintive reading of John Lennon’s Isolation which worked well as a counterpoint to a later playful take on the Velvet Underground’s Sweet Jane – a mainstay of old Mott shows, too.
Another standout was Hunter’s touching tribute to old sparring partner, the late Mick Ronson, on a wistful Michael Picasso.
Keeping the majority of the Mott gems tucked away for a final flourish, Roll Away The Stone saw the band raise a smile by mauling the talkie bit before reconvening in the encore for Saturday Gigs.
There’s no prizes for guessing the final song. No Hunter gig would be complete without All The Young Dudes. Written by Bowie but made immortal by Mott the Hoople, it remains a signature tune of the glam rock era. A real spine-tingler.
A shame though for the monumentally hammered middle-aged couple who’d just about managed to stay upright for the previous 19 songs only to be escorted out of the venue just before the opening bars of Dudes rang out. You’ve got to learn to pace yourselves people.
While his hero Bob Dylan continues to destroy whatever shreds of reputation he has left as live act, Hunter really struck the right tone overall here – one eye on the past but with the other very firmly on the future.
You’ve got to admire a guy who at the ripe old age of 73 still has a creative fire burning within him. He could trade solely on nostalgia for the rest of his days, but he’s far too cool for that. Hats (but obviously not sunglasses) off to him.
As a goosebump-inducing finale to a night of rootsy Americana, you can’t whack a singalong version of Dylan’s I Shall Be Released.
It’s the pay-off here in an acoustic-led set from Simone Felice and his two-piece backing line-up featuring former Duke & The King bandmate Simi Stone and an on-loan Matt Boulter from the ‘Thames Delta’ of Southend-on-Sea.
The final song was wholly apt, too, as Felice hails from the same area in the Catskill Mountains outside New York that His Bobness once called home.
And like Dylan, Felice is totally immersed in the grand tradition of the storytelling singer-songwriter. There’s a forensic detail to his lyrics which paints him as part incurable romantic, part hippy visionary and part journalist.
A perfect example of the latter was the stark reportage style of New York Times which took in a school massacre and the aftermath of Michael Jackson’s death.
More universal was Summer Morning Rain with Stone providing ethereal harmonies and lilting fiddle.
You & I Belong took on more of a hoedown feel than its studio incarnation as Felice nearly stomped his way through the stage. At times, he looks like he’s having an out of body experience.
A contribution to his family band The Felice Brothers, in the shape of Don’t Wake The Scarecrow, ramped up the drama before we took on All When We Were Young, an emotional rumination on the September 11 attacks on New York City.
The aforementioned encore was simply sublime with Felice’s self-penned material rubbing shoulders with two classic covers.
His fans wouldn’t have forgiven him for neglecting to play Shaky, another trademark tale of damaged lives – this time by the Afghanistan conflict.
That was deftly followed by a rollicking take on Springsteen’s Atlantic City and Felice’s delicate If You Ever Get Famous.
Stone took a couple of verses on I Shall Be Released, proving just what an extraordinarily soulful voice she has. She’s currently recording her debut solo album – what a great prospect that is.
Felice, meanwhile, has already found his feet since striking out on his own. A rising star with a great future.
Rating: 8 out of 10
ELVIS Costello isn’t so much reinventing the wheel on his latest tour but bringing it out of a 26-year retirement.
The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook finds him sharing the stage with a 20-foot high Victorian Fairground-style wheel colourfully painted with nigh-on 40 songs from his vast back catalogue.
He first used it back in 1986 and the idea has been resurrected for these epic three-hour live shows. It’s a simple but very effective theatrical concept that gives an intriguing twist to the night.
Not only does it bring the audience into the heart of the action as they get to choose the songs by spinning the wheel but it adds an air of unpredictability to the setlist.
But before the games begin, and as a knowingly kitsch silver catsuited go-go dancer in her cage gets busy stage left, Costello and his three-piece band The Imposters propel themselves into a clutch of punkish power pop gems to warm us up including a fiery I Hope You’re Happy Now and Radio Radio.
The first song choice via the wheel is a belter, offering up a particularly fine Good Year For The Roses which boasts a swelling piano accompaniment from long-time Costello sideman Steve Nieve.
More off-piste selections from the wheel included the tender Randy Newman cover I’ve Been Wrong Before and Shabby Doll.
The hits come thick and fast, too, from a crackling (I Don’t Want To) Go To Chelsea, through Watching The Detectives to the evergreen Oliver’s Army.
There are also moments of breathtaking drama such as the solo fingerpicked A Slow Drag With Josephine and a quite beautiful Jimmie Standing In The Rain.
The politically charged anti-Thatcher classic Tramp The Dirt Down was dusted off after decades in cold storage and followed in a devastating one-two punch with Shipbuilding.
We rounded off with all-guns-blazing versions of Pump It Up, (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding and a stunningly broody I Want You.
Wheel or no wheel, this was a masterclass in songwriting and charismatic, nuanced rock’n’roll.
A STAGE invasion, an AWOL singer and impromptu MC battles - I guess we should always have expected the unexpected with Tricky.
This Bristol show, his first hometown appearance since a foundations-troubling gig at the Victoria Rooms in 1999, was seemingly a chance to revel in former glories by playing his superb solo debut Maxinquaye in its entirety.
But nostalgia doesn’t sit well with Tricky. Instead, these songs were often given an almighty kicking, pulled apart then reconstructed.
Another unique slant here was his reunion with former partner Martina Topley-Bird who featured heavily on early Tricky records.
Their current relationship is hard to decipher on stage. There was no banter or knowing glances of any real significance which gave an added frisson to what became an increasingly bizarre set.
On its first live outing, these songs haven’t been nailed down yet - on Tricky’s part that’s probably quite deliberate - and there’s plenty of scope for taking odd tangents with his stripped-back four-piece band.
Opening with the woozy Ponderosa, they got into their stride with Aftermath, all subterranean bass and walloping drums as well as Black Steel which retained its punkish rush.
Half a dozen songs in though and they’re still hesitant on Overcome but regained momentum with an intense Hell Is Round The Corner.
Tired of sticking to the rulebook, Tricky then instigated a stage invasion, handing the mic to his youngest brother for some freestyle MCing. For Strugglin’, he jumped into the crowd and urged his band on from the front row instead.
He’s AWOL, too, for Brand New You’re Retro which saw his brother back on stage with two other Bristol MC’s for an extended jam.
By the end, the band seem unsure if Tricky’s still in the building or if he’s nipped back to Knowle West, leaving them to shuffle embarrassinglyon the spot for several minutes. He reappeared for all of five seconds for Makes Me Wanna Die before reconvening properly for set closer Christiansands.
At times, this was all over the shop. Erratic and intriguing in equal measure, this show won’t be forgotten in a hurry.
AS A crowd-pleasing encore for a bunch of classic rock fans, you really couldn’t ask for more than a double whammy of top drawer Neil Young.
Rich Robinson has always been quick to doff his cap to the greats of rock’n’roll and the climax to this solo show saw him play crackling versions of Down By The River and Cinnamon Girl.
With his band the Black Crowes now on indefinite hiatus, Robinson has been reluctantly forced centre stage to go it alone and take on the frontman duties usually reserved for his brother Chris. A natural showman Rich is not – nor never pretends to be – preferring to let his guitar playing do the vast majority of the talking.
Blending material from his two solo albums plus a choice of semi-obscure covers, this two-hour set was a rather mixed bag; there were times it all fell flat and tiptoed into muso, noodling self-indulgence.
Early highlights though were the Santana-like fluidity of It’s Not Easy and a cover of early days Fleetwood Mac’s heavy blues Station Man.
A funky version of the Velvet Underground’s What Goes On boasted a crackling solo from Robinson and the slow-burning (ahem) Standing On The Surface Of The Sun made for an anthemic mid-point burst of melody. The Stonesy bar room swagger of Falling Again played to the band’s strengths as did a stomping performance of I Don’t Hear The Sound Of You from his new record Through A Crooked Sun.
Robinson’s bassist Brian Allen tried his best to look interested playing a three-note refrain for the overlong instrumental from Sixties experimental Krautrock band Agitation Free (no, me neither…) and another cover of a track by blues rock heavyweights War dragged, too. Bye Bye Baby also buckled under the weight of excessive soloing.
If you leave the venue after seeing one of the finest guitarist of the last 20 years and a sterling three-piece backing band musing on just what a great songwriter Neil Young is, something must have got lost along the way. Perhaps a smidgeon more showmanship next time please, Rich?