This is the summer of reunions. Squeeze, Crowded House, and Heaven & Hell -- the post-Ozzy Osbourne version of Black Sabbath -- have all taken to the road for some high-profile touring. But the biggest news of course, is The Police. Sting and his cohorts have taken off the gloves and decided to "De Do Do Do" it to the tune of $250 per ticket. Figure in the additional Ticketmaster sodomizing, a few beers, maybe some popcorn, and a souvenir Andy Summers tour dickey, and you and your significant other can enjoy an evening of all your Police faves for a little under $800.
On a much smaller scale is a man who never went away, rock icon Ian Hunter. Hunter, along with guitarist Mick Ralphs, co-founded the legendary hard rock group Mott The Hoople nearly 40 years ago, and this past Saturday night at The Highline Ballroom, that spiffy new venue in the meatpacking district of Manhattan, Hunter (who is pushing 70 and looks exactly as he did when he was 30) rocked the sadly undersold room for two hours.
Sporting his trademark shades and his red mop of hair, Hunter and his band of semi-regulars that included Jersey boy and ex-Bongo James Mastro on guitar, Paul McCartney alumnus Steve Holley on drums, and the omnipresent Andy Burton on keyboards, delighted his loyal following with everything from Mott The Hoople classics to his 80's radio hits, right through material from his two most recent CDs, 2001's Rant and the just released Shrunken Heads, both of which are some of Hunter's strongest work.
Playing acoustic guitar and a harmonica that he kept strapped around his neck for most of the performance, Hunter and the band played as if their lives depended on it. The classic "Allo allo allo" of the opening staple "Once Bitten, Twice Shy," prompted cheers from the well-over-40-something crowd and there was no turning back. Fans treated his most recent material with the same enthusiasm as they did such gems as "Roll Away the Stone," "The Ballad Of Mott," and "Irene Wilde."
Gone are the top hats, pink boas and screeching electric guitars that were just as important to a classic Mott concert as the material itself. The old faves were just a tad more relaxed, giving off the feel of "Blonde On Blonde-era" Bob Dylan, as opposed to the raucous glam-rock that was so prevalent during Hunter's peak with Mott. That's no surprise, really. The first four Mott The Hoople LPs had Hunter writing mostly Dylan-inspired ballads, while Mick Ralphs penned the rockers. And of course, the similarity of Hunter's voice and phrasing to Dylan's is no coincidence.
So let's review: two tickets for Ian Hunter -$54.00. Two beers -$14.00. Cab ride home - $16.00. Grand total - $84.00. (They were out of James Mastro dickeys.) That is 1/10 the cost of a night out with The Police in the "Big Apple."
Ian Hunter closed the show with an emotional wallop. It was a one-two punch that featured the autobiographical "Saturday Gigs," the last song Mott The Hoople recorded together as a band, and that gift of all gifts from author David Bowie, "All The Young Dudes." There was not a dry eye in the house. And come August, there probably won't be a dry eye in Madison Square Garden when The Police take the stage. But unlike the tears of joy being shed while a small group of rock 'n' roll loyalists sang along to "All The Young Dudes," the tears for The Police will represent the realization of 19,000 people who spent a week's salary to see three guys with nothing new to say other than "We want your money."