MiG 2011 / 2017
Climbing up the mountains without falling down the holes, a couple of HOOPLE lads deliver a night to remember.
Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson were firm friends from the time David Bowie had saved the failing career of the former’s group by submitting their biggest hit for a new record and brought in the latter to help with arrangements, and the two jumped the ship together a couple of years down the line to form joint venture. The HUNTER-RONSON BAND’s billing didn’t appear on posters too often, though, and when this concert took place in Essen in April 1980, Mick served as a featured performer in Ian’s ensemble – nominally so, as it’s the Englishmen’s rapport and balance that makes the show, recorded for TV and available now as a CD/DVD package, truly special.
Of course, given his usual flash, Hunter’s the star here and, prefacing the appearance of the man in shades with a SHADOWS’ instrumental, Ronson’s honeyed tone and calm demeanor fill “FBI” with sly menace until passion takes over and sets the scene for what’s to come. But Ian, the besuited epitome of rock ‘n’ roll cool, unhurriedly drives a riff into “Once Bitten Twice Shy” only to let Mick and their companions engulf him in a thick sound wave and wrap his voice in harmonic shroud. They initially share the microphone on the tight, if glossy, “Laugh At Me” but Hunter is left alone, in the spotlight on a darkened stage, at the grand piano emoting soulfully about “Irene Wilde” while Ronson’s delicate mandolin is adding textural detail to “I Wish I Was Your Mother” before infectious panache shifts “Just Another Night” to the ultimate rapture.
It can even render the smattering of MOTT’s classics pale in comparison, especially when the sprawling “Cleveland Rocks” somehow fails to gain traction despite the audience’s participation, with the crowd more than happy to have Ian, wielding his axe-like guitar, in their midst during “All The Young Dudes” in which Mich pours a lava-like intro. Three six-stringers – there’s Tommy Morrongiello who had worked with Cherry Vanilla, another Bowie associate, to bolster the assault alongside bassist Martin Briley – trade licks on “All The Way From Memphis” where Tommy Mandel, one of the two ivories tinklers, goes mad, although the best cut on display must be the robustly nervous “We Gotta Get Out Of Here” – a fresh entry in the ensemble’s repertoire. To anchor their flight to tradition, Ronson will inject folk motif into the frantic funk of “Bastard” and Hunter will whip up a blues harp and unleash an inner Dylan for the effervescent “Angeline” where the singer’s theatrical gesticulation should spur the piece’s vigor, yet all of it calms down with “Slaughter On 10th Avenue” – a slyly menacing serenade mirroring the show’s opener.
It was a rare and fleeting combination of talents, and to have it captured is a gift.