Live Review: Ian Hunter and the Rant Band at The Variety Playhouse Nov. 7

Review by Dan Carroll, Photos by Liz Bradley

Some of the worst traffic in Atlanta hits on the first Friday after day light savings time ends every autumn. This year those heading to the Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points fought multiple traffic jams to find their way to see Ian Hunter. There might be an allegory in there to the long and tortuous career of Ian Hunter; I don’t know. But, it was the one thing we were all talking about. You see, the packed house of dedicated fans would have gone through worse traffic and inconvenience to see Hunter return to Atlanta for the first time in many years.

Hunter, famous for being the lead singer of Mott the Hoople and writing a number of songs that became hits for others, is touring the country going to venues and towns he had not been in decades. Always popular in the Northeast and the Southwest, even he admits he has never had a broad following in the South and Midwest (except northern Ohio). This tour is a chance to take his talents around the country. The excitement in the audience was more than enough to make up for a little traffic inconvenience.

Opening for Hunter were husband and wife duo Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby. Rigby found some fame being a favorite of Little Steven’s Underground Garage show and Sirius Channel; Wreckless Eric was a punk rock pioneer. Despite a wide age difference between the two of them, they play together effortlessly as if they had been playing for decades together. They put on a tight show alternating between one song from Wreckless Eric’s career and one from Rigby’s. The banter between them was light and breezy with a touch of irony, including a long story about Wreckless Eric not knowing what a Peach Pass was on I-85, and the cop still giving him a ticket for driving in the Peach Pass Lanes. While they did not sing Eric’s punk rock anthem, “Take the KASH,” the couple ended their long set with “The Whole Wide World” and “Dancing With Joey Ramone,” their biggest hits individually.

Hunter has been touring and recording with The Rant Band since 2000. Made up of younger NY and NJ musicians, along with his long time drummer, the Rant Band is one of the tightest bands in current rock ‘n’ roll and severe up nearly 50 rock ‘n’ roll with a freshness and verve that has the audience on their feet the entire show.

The set list was a mixture of Rant band songs from the past 15 years and classic Ian Hunter and Mott the Hoople Favorites. From the Mott days, songs included “All the Way From Memphis” and “Sweet Jane,” the Lou Reed cover. Classic songs from Ian Hunter’s solo career included “Standing in My light,” “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” and “Just Another Night.” New favorites “When I am President,” “Black Tears” and “Ta Shunka Witco (Crazy Horse)” stood out. In the core set, the stand out piece was “Michael Picasso.” The song is a soul-wrenching tribute to Hunter’s long term recording partner Mick Ronson, who passed away in the early 1990s. A prolonged encore was highlighted by Hunter’s signature song from Mott the Hoople, “All the Young Dudes.” Noticeably missing from the show were fan favorites “Irene Wild” and “Cleveland Rocks.”

In all, 75-year-old Ian Hunter proved that age is no deterrent to being able to provide solid, hard driving rock ‘n’ roll. Keeping with the traffic theme, the band hit the road immediately for three nights of gigs in Tennessee and several more weeks on the road. They go to Japan for the first time in 2015.

For more information on Ian Hunter see:

For more information on Amy Rigby and Wreckless Eric see:

Gallery from Ian Hunter at The Variety Playhouse on 11/7/2014

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