It’s a cliché to call vital artists of a certain vintage “ageless,” but there you have it: Ian Hunter, who turns 80 on June 3, on Tuesday night at the Orpheum led Mott the Hoople through a 105-minute set, singing every song, maintaining his distinctive Dylanesque-by-way-of-Bowie phrasing throughout, even shouting out a few high-note climaxes.
But, after all, Hunter was “old,” 30, when he joined this first-generation glam band, in 1969. Tuesday’s show was part of a reunion tour of “Mott the Hoople ’74,” — “first US tour in 45 years” — where Hunter was joined by Mott bandmates Morgan Fisher on piano and Ariel Bender (known in his non-Mott life as Luther Grosvenor), plus Hunter’s usual backing crew, the Rant Band.
There’s always been an elegiac streak in Mott’s roots-driven glam — an early song was “(Do You Remember) The Saturday Gigs,” and their first real hit, “All the Young Dudes” (written by David Bowie), had come after they’d already decided to throw in the towel. The song revitalized their career.
On Tuesday night, a recorded Bowie introduced the band, and they started off with “American Pie” (“the day the music died”), before heading into their own “The Golden Age of Rock ’n’ Roll” (“Everybody hazy, shell-shocked, and crazy”). By that point, the Orpheum crowd was singing along. There was plenty of ’50s-style rock ’n’ roll boogie (abetted by James Mastro’s tenor sax and Fisher’s triplet eighth-note chords), prog-leaning excursions (“Roll Away the Stone”), and the explicitly elegiac “Rest In Peace” (“I wouldn’t want a single thing to change”).
Through it all, Hunter was good-humoredly self-deprecating, as when he said that some words one writes in youth “come back to embarrass you,” but he sang them anyway (“Sucker” — which he acknowledged was an awkward choice for the #MeToo era), though he altered the lyrics of “Violence” to “It don’t make any sense.”
The last third of the show was fueled by a medley of these and other heavy-riff originals (“Jerkin’ Crocus,” “One of the Boys,” “Cleveland Rocks”) laced with quotes from rock history (“Johnny B. Goode,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’,” “You Really Got Me”).
The encore set was the capper to the revival-meeting mood — Fisher alone onstage cuing the opening of “All the Way from Memphis,” the look back of “Saturday Gigs” (“I remember ’71”), and an “All the Young Dudes” that brought opening band the Dream Syndicate (who themselves remembered opening for R.E.M. at the Orpheum “35 years ago this month”) for the final singalong. This was living history. With an emphasis on living.
Mott the Hoople
With the Dream Syndicate
At the Orpheum Theatre, Tuesday night.