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  Central Station  
  Wrexham, UK  
Reviewed by:
  Indoor Miner  
Performance Rating:
Sound Quality:
Overall Rating:

It's difficult to know what to judge Ian Hunter against nowadays. Do we compare him with his golden age of thirty odd years ago, against the current crop of hitmakers and wannabes, or do we just praise god that he's still with us? Certainly, seeing a bloke in his mid-60s play before a couple of hundred of balding heads is unlikely to compare with what it must have felt like to have seen Mott The Hoople in their pomp (which sadly I never did). And the last gig I saw prior to this, a new Manchester act called Black Basque who I'd never heard of before, was much more exciting. And yet you can't help thinking that this wasn't a bad performance from a bloke who's old enough to get a free bus pass.

The set opened in a very low-key manner. Hunter and his merry men sauntered quietly onto the stage, whereupon he launched into an acoustic number before stopping at the end of the first line and announcing "I think I'll play that in G rather than C". He then started again in a lower, less voice straining key. It was a promising start, a bit heavy on the Dylan phrasing admittedly, but then Hunter always sounded like a more shouty Brit version of old Bob. Lounge Lizard, from his self-titled debut album was next and was one of the highlights for me, even though it's basically just goodtime rock'n'roll, as if The Stones had Dylan as their singer instead of Mick.

Hunter's one UK solo hit, Once Bitten Twice Shy, followed, though it never really caught fire for me. Things then got a bit sticky. The next track was described as "a bit Warren Zevon" before Hunter strapped on his harmonica which, to music lovers everywhere, should surely be considered a liberty too far. To make matters worse, the song itself, a newish number entitled Twisted Steel, was a tenth rate Dylan-like dirge that I never want to hear again. Indeed, the sound of most of the material that I didn't know only confirmed that I was right to part ways with Hunter after his second solo album, All American Alien Boy.

The set only really picked up again for me when Hunter sat at the piano and sang the funky All American Alien Boy title track, and then launched into the Mott classic All The Way From Memphis. Even then though, these two numbers were separated by some lengthy, epic rant that made me think several lifetimes had passed me by before it eventually concluded.

The set ended well though. The Truth The Whole Truth Nothing But The Truth started the encore, veering from atmospheric (the verse) to borderline bombastic (the chorus). Then Hunter treated us to some vintage Mott moments the mighty Roll Away The Stone, without alas the "sha la la la la push push", but otherwise excellent, and a well-delivered Saturday Gig, which burst suddenly into the glorious guitar intro of All The Young Dudes, surely one of the greatest singles to ever grace our ears. It was a great moment, until Hunter stopped singing, conducted the audience singalong, and never really joined back in. This was a shame, because Hunter was in fine voice all evening. There was still time for one more encore though. Hunter sang Sinatra's A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square, whilst the drummer wandered on with fake moustache with champagne and a tea towel. It was a borderline surreal moment!

So some good moments, but too much of the night was spent in a world where lengthy, "meaningful" rants rule over the three minute frivolous pop songs that the singer once excelled at. It is also a world where musicians nod sagely and grimace as they search desperately for those high notes that are in fact just a few inches up the guitar neck and not some faraway, unreachable place. Yes, this is a world where, say, Metal Box has not yet been made. As much as we think we would all like to return to our youth, this is not ultimately a world in which I would want to live.

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