Review: The Dudes of Mott the Hoople Kick Off Their Return to Rock in Milwaukee After 45 Years

Mott the Hoople played their first U.S. show in 45 years at the Miller High Life Theatre on April 1.

I was nine years old when my dad brought home a CD copy of Mott the Hoople’s 1973 album, Mott. I’d never heard of them but when my dad, in his wildest attempt at a British accent, sang “All the Way from Memphis,” I was hooked.

So, when Ian Hunter, the sunglasses-clad frontman of Mott the Hoople, announced that he and the remaining members of the band, Ariel Bender on guitar and Morgan Fisher on keyboard, were coming back to the United States after more than four decades, the first person I contacted was my dad, telling him there was no way I was going to miss this (quite literally) once-in-a-generation opportunity.

Waiting in line for the show, Baby Boomers in leather jackets and an array of classic tour t-shirts brimmed with years of anticipation, regaling each other with stories about the last time they saw Mott the Hoople live.

“Aren’t you a little young to be a Mott the Hoople fan?” someone behind me asked. I’m thirty years old now, but I feel like I’ve been waiting forty-five-years, like the rest of Milwaukee — like the rest of the United States — for Mott the Hoople to come back on tour and sing, “young man, you can never be old.” I told them I’d be singing loud and clear with everyone as soon as the Dudes took the stage.

Mott the Hoople at Miller High Life Theatre; photo by RS Deeren

As the house lights flickered, a collective wonder rose among the crowd that carried everyone to their seats. Warmed up by Midwestern new wave darlings The Suburbs, everyone chanted “74! 74! 74!” as the lights dimmed around a backdrop of a modern mashup of Mott the Hoople’s cover art from the albums Mott and The Hoople: the heads of Augustus and mirror images of Bond girl Kari-Ann Muller, donning the iconic Ian Hunter sunglasses.

Introduced by a 1970’s audio clip from David Bowie, who penned one of Mott the Hoople’s biggest –and legendary band-saving hits — 1972’s “All the Young Dudes,” the band walked out to a standing ovation. Fans remained standing, dancing and singing throughout the evening’s first song, a suite of Don McLean’s “American Pie” and Mott the Hoople’s choir-backed, big band-tinged rocker “The Golden Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” It was an overt message from the band, stating “we know we’ve been gone for a while, but we are still the ninety-six-decibel freaks we’ve always been.”

The show buzzed on with a mix of nazz-soaked cuts, such as “Rest in Peace,” “Marionette” and “Walking With a Mountain”; a selection of Ian Hunter solo works, specifically “Lounge Lizard” and a Milwaukee-themed take on “Cleveland Rocks”; their cover of The Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane”; and of course, the marquee singles that made Mott the Hoople glam rock royalty: “Honaloochie Boogie” (my favorite), “Roll Away the Stone,” “All the Way from Memphis” and “All the Young Dudes.”

Mott the Hoople at Miller High Life Theatre; photo by RS Deeren

Before the encore, Hunter, 79, said kicking off their first, and last, U.S. tour in Milwaukee was a conscious choice because of how wonderful the fans are, how grateful and how welcoming the city had been to him as a solo artist and as the frontman for Mott the Hoople in years past. The Monday night crowd at the Miller High Life Theatre was all that and then some as almost half a century of joy and fandom flooded the house.

Think of your favorite song, long out of constant radio play, coming on the car radio. Imagine that car filled with every friend you’ve ever had. Now imagine you all know every word, and you’re all singing along. Now you have a hint of what the crowd gave back to Mott the Hoople Monday night as a way to say, “Welcome back. We remember the Saturday gigs. We got off on those Saturday gigs. ‘Cause you did. You did.”