Ian Hunter Band feat. Mick Ronson - Live at Rockpalast 1980 (DVD)
Growing up in the 70's, it was hard not to be a fan of Mick Ronson's fiery, creative guitar playing and backup vocals with David Bowie, and his work on his own underrated solo albums. The Ian Hunter led Mott The Hoople also shone brightly for a while in the decades music scene, so it was with a sense of excitement that I hit play on this DVD, recorded in early 1980 for the long running German concert TV show, Rockpalast.
Ronson had hooked up with Hunter at the tail end of Mott, and stayed on as guitarist and musical partner, off and on for the next 18 years, until his death of liver cancer in 1983. They managed to have a few minor hits over the years, including "Once Bitten, Twice Shy", "Cleveland Rocks" and "Just Another Night", but never really captured the magic they had both experienced earlier in their careers.
The first sign of trouble in this DVD occured when I noticed during the protracted tuning and amp adjustment at the start of the show that Ronson's famous Gibson Les Paul (you know the one) was not plugged into a Marshall, but a puny little Music Man combo amp. Sure enough, as they launch into the old Shadows instrumental "FBI" I found myself wondering "what happened to Mick's tone?". Nowhere to be found was the legendary fat, warm, slightly heavy guitar sound he brandished so effectively in Bowie tunes like "Moonage Daydream or "Width Of A Circle".
The band proceeds to plow their way through workmanlike versions of Hunter's catalog, all very professional, and reasonably tight, but with no sense of excitement, or danger (except when a keyboard falls off the stand, making a horrendous noise and startling the crap out of Ian). All the hits are here, and there are a few highlights such as a nice version of the Mott The Hoople classic "I Wish I was Your Mother" featuring Ronson on mandolin, a spirited "All The Way From Memphis", "All The Young Dudes" and a beautiful, but way too short run through "Slaughter On Tenth Avenue", the instrumental from Ronson's first solo album.
Unfortunately, the quality of the Mott songs only serves to point out the relative weakness of Ian's later output. Hunter sings as well as his limited range allows him to, and there are moments when Ronson comes to life, such as during a tasty solo on "Bastard" where he slips a bit of the Yardbird's "Over Under, Sideways Down" in. His bored, disinterested expression facial expression through most of the show kind of sums it all up, although I am glad that this footage exists.....a rare chance to see a true guitar genius, , who while suffering through just an average night, manages to flash just enough of his remarkable talent to make you deeply realize what a loss it was to the world of music when he passed.
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