Too sedate for rock'n'roll?

Ian Hunter - Manor Ballroom, Ipswich - Friday February 29 Rock star Ian Hunter's eagerly awaited return to Suffolk turned out to be one for the diehards and a big disappointment for those who were expecting all the Mott The Hoople classics.

Ian Hunter - Manor Ballroom, Ipswich - Friday February 29

Rock star Ian Hunter's eagerly awaited return to Suffolk turned out to be one for the diehards and a big disappointment for those who were expecting all the Mott The Hoople classics. 68 year old Hunter's voice remains in good nick and he can still knock out a great song but his acoustic show at the Manor Ballroom relied far too heavily on his solo work and took the best part of an hour to come to life.

Many of those arriving to see the seventies icon were somewhat surprised to find rows of chairs set up on the ballroom floor. There was room to stand at the back and in the bar area but most of the near capacity crowd were seated throughout and it didn't make for a great atmosphere.

A few months ago Hunter released one of his best ever solo albums, Shrunken Heads, and two of the fine musicians who appear on that, guitarist James Mastro and drummer Steve Holley, are backing the man from Shropshire on his latest UK tour. Hunter clearly enjoyed their company and when he lost his way on a couple of tracks he knew he could rely on them to bail him out.


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It's hard to believe that nearly 34 years have passed since the demise of Mott The Hoople and for much of that time Hunter has been flying solo. He did release an album with the late Mick Ronson and Michael Picasso, his tribute to the ex-Spider From Mars, was one of the highlights of his two hour show. I loved the way it segued into the Teddy Bears' hit To Know Him Is To Love Him and it was a touching moment not lost on his faithful followers.

Earlier it had taken a superb version of the Velvet Underground's Sweet Jane to lift the gig to anywhere near the heights anticipated. From then on performer and audience were at one and when Hunter took off his guitar and switched to electric piano I fully expected to hear wonderful songs like All The Way From Memphis and The Golden Age Of Rock And Roll. Sadly those numbers and other Mott classics like Honaloochie Boogie and Roll Away The Stone failed to materialise. There was no outing either for Hunter's best song in ages, When The World Was Round, which is one of the many great tracks on Shrunken Heads. Others from that 2006 release did figure including Soul Of America, an insightful look at the country he's spent much of his life in.

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Hunter finished the night with the obligatory All The Young Dudes featuring support act Amy Speace on keyboards. At the end he got a standing ovation but I couldn't help thinking how much better the whole night would have been had he shortened the first half of the set and built on the success of the aforementioned Sweet Jane a little bit sooner.

There's a danger that it might now be a case of Once Bitten Twice Shy for some members of the audience. There are few better sights and sounds in music than Ian Hunter in full flight on stage so hopefully when he's next in town he'll do away with the chairs and do what he does best - rock.

Stephen Foster

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