The Hammersmith Apollo theatre has stood the test of time, hosting virtually every British rock ‘n’ roll and blues act over the past 50 years.
It was the perfect place for Mott the Hoople to stage their five sold-out reunion gala event for its adoring yet spry aging fans. It was at the Apollo where Mott the Hoople launched their career largely to the credit of David Bowie for donating the ’70s glam rock anthem, All the Young Dudes, which began their rise to stardom.
‘I’ve been waiting 35 years for this!’ barked a mid-60s bloke acting as if he were seven entering Disney World for the first time. It’s been 40 years since Mott the Hoople last toured and around 30 years since several of the original band members were in contact. You finally know that all the young dudes at the venue had ‘matured’ since the early 70s when a long line of chaps were standing quietly and patiently in line for the men’s room prior to the show and a bloke chirps up.
‘In ’71 we would have all been peeing in the sinks, but now we’re all much more mature!’ the toilet group roared and the evening was on.
I had scoped the 2 October show the night before and was fortunate to track down Mott’s publicist and much to my pleasure, received a photo press pass to cover the show for The Caymanian Compass this magical full moon night in London town. The security crew knew I was representing Cayman Free Press and gave me the kid glove treatment, escorting me front and centre for the photo shoot and outfitted me with a pair of earplugs, just in case.
The Apollo was packed to the rafters as Mott took the stage with strong deliveries of Rock ‘n’ Roll Queen and Sweet Jane, followed by hard hitting Sucker. The original band members were joined by Martin Chambers, Pretenders drummer with bongo in tow, for a seated acoustic set that included Original Mixed Up Kids. The acoustic set was highlighted by I Wish I Was Your Mother, which included heavy audience participation.
Amplifiers, lights and electric guitars returned with the band jumping into Ready for Love followed by bass guru Overend Watts leading a torching version of Born Late in ’58. Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus followed with a multimedia march back in time proudly displaying classic photos of the band members during their early days. Angeline and a lively Walking with a Mountain were next on the play list. That’s when Ian Hunter broke out Hank Williams Your Cheatin’ Heart and you believed Ian was 35, not 70 years of age.
With the crowd fully engaged, The Golden Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll was embraced with a crowd chorus of ‘…It’s good for your body, it’s good for your soul – It’s the Golden Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll!’ Ian Hunter then took the keyboards and anointed the night with All The Way From Memphis for the hopping fans. A touching moment arrived when a second drum set was unveiled and original drummer Dale Griffin sat in after being escorted by his replacement Martin Chambers. You see, Griffin has Alzheimer’s but quickly proceeded to lead the Rock ‘n’ Roll parade through the classic Roll Away the Stone. After an historic two-hour show the show, there was just one thing missing. And Mott the Hoople didn’t disappoint closing out with a wonderful All The Young Dudes send off.