Review by Roy Trakin.
Ian Hunter & The Rant Band / Steve Wynn – Roxy, L.A.
A couple of old pros show how it’s done, as old pal Tim Devine pointed out while we filed into the venerable old Sunset Strip club from the rain, “It’s a couple of old next Dylans tonight,” when that actually meant something.
The Dream Syndicate leader Steve Wynn marveled how many times he’d taken that stage, this time accompanied by long-time local fixture and current L.A. Times TV critic Robert Lloyd on mandolin and accordion for an acoustic set that ranged from his old outifts The Dream Syndicate (an opening “The Medicine Show”) and Gutterball (“Top of the Hill”) to solo material (“Southern California Line,” which he describes as his “shaggy dog train song” and the harp-laden “Carolyn” from his 1990 Kerosene Man album) and even The Baseball Project (“1976,” his old to wacky pitcher Mark “The Bird” Fidrych).
Wynn finished the set with the spiritual “There Will Come a Day” (from his Miracle 3 offshoot) accompanied by Lloyd’s plaintive accordion solo and finishes with a moving take on Blind Lemon Jefferson’s doom-laden “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” as appropriated by Dylan (“I got two white horses following me… And my heart stopped beating and my hands turned cold?).
Mott the Hoople lead singer Ian Hunter’s blonde, curly locks have long since turned grey, but the feisty front man, still with those omnipresent shades and a Little Richard t-shirt, fronting his veteran Rant Band, boasting ace lead axeman Mark Bosch as well as ex-Bongos guitarist James Mastro and former Wings drummer Steve Holley.
He wastes no time getting into some of his own classics in a 22-song, two-hour-plus show that goes from the relatively recent (and self-explanatory) “(I’m the) Teacher” straight into a honky-tonk take on “Once Bitten Twice Shy” and, with his harmonica, taking it to the church on a Dylanesque “Something to Believe In.” That theme carries forward on the soulful “Now is the Time” (from his ’96 solo album, The Artful Dodger), about musing “if Jesus was alive/He’s be standing on the freeway/Holding up a neon sign screaming,” punctuated by Bosch’s slide guitar solo.
Hunter turns “Just the Way You Look Tonight,” a song from his fine 2012 When I’m President album, into a Springsteen-ish rockabilly number, then turns “Boy,” from his very first, self-titled 1975 Ian Hunter album into a Ray Davies/Bowie homage.
Then it’s time for one fave after another, as Hunter sits down at the piano for “Just Another Night,” before asking, “Was anyone here 34 years ago?” for a medley of “Laugh at Me” and “Irene Wild,” before tickling the ivories on the sing-song rap of “All American Alien Boy,” then a pair of Mott chestnuts, “All the Way from Memphis” and “The Original Mixed Up Kid.”
The set closes with a one-two punch of “Bastard” (from the his wonderfully titled 1979 solo album You’re Never Alone with a Schizophrenic), with its telling line, “The agony and the ecstasy meeting at the middle of my mouth” and a classic “Sweet Jane,” leading into an audience-involve encore highlighted by a suitably raucous “Roll Away the Stone” and, naturally, “All the Young Dudes,” which culminates in a coda of Lead Belly’s “Goodnight Irene,” taking the enjoyable evening full circle. At 75 years old, the venerable Hunter retains the enthusiasm of the youngster who sang, “Yeah, it’s a mighty long way down to rock ‘n’ roll,” and still sounds like he means every word. “I’m enjoying that lately,” he croons in “Bastards.” “You know just the beginnings.” Hopefully, there is no end in sight.