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Ian Hunter @ Potawatomi Bingo Casino

Oct. 3, 2013

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Ian Hunter didn't look frustrated Thursday night at Potawatami Bingo Casino’s Northern Lights Theater, storming through a couple hours’ worth of a few decades’ worth of music recognizable to U.S. audiences.

But the sympathetic observer couldn't rightly fault Hunter for being fueled by a feeling of sublimated disgruntlement. If Hunter’s not currently in a more vaunted position in classic rock’s  pantheon, it’s not for lack of the quality not quantity of his work. But when two of your best-known solo songs are better-remembered as a hit for Barry Manilow ("Ships") and a remake by ’90s alt rock doofuses which supplied the theme song for a successful sitcom (The Presidents Of the United States of America's version of “Cleveland Rocks” on “The Drew Carey Show”), being on the bubble that separates cult status from wider renown could understandably occupy a percentage of your waking thinking hours.        

Maybe that’s why Hunter spoke nary a word between songs. At least as likely, maybe he intuited that a crowd packing a classy venue on a working-week evening deserved as much of his deep catalog’s breadth as a couple hours would allow. Regardless, any longtime follower of Hunter shouldn’t have felt cheated.

He did exclude a couple of his airplay hits. Within his proper set before a couple of encore calls, he spanned back from last year’s album with his Rant Band, When I'm President, to his days with the band that arguably provided England’s bridge between early ’70s glam and the pub rock that would immediately precede punk’s explosion, Mott The Hoople. In his vest, tie, white, long-sleeved shirt and trademark sunglasses atop his head with its ever-curly mane, backed by musicians among whom large hats in the fedora family were a prominent accessory, Hunter was business casual about his adult, emotionally diverse rock.

A 74 year-old such as Hunter can’t help but add resonance to a Mott hit such as “The Golden Age of Rock And Roll” that he couldn’t have when first recorded it in his 30s. And though there may be more wizened wryness in singing “Once Bitten, Twice Shy,” at his age (still leagues beyond Great White's smash hairspray metal rendering), other facets of that mature perspective  inform his latest album's balladic ode to Chief Crazy Horse at Little Big Horn, “Ta Shunk a Witco” and its pre-encore reflection on the small pleasures that come with being human, “Life.” Hunter diehards populating Northern Lights clapped appreciatively at recognition of late ’70s album track “Standin’ in My Light,” its stateliness which now can be heard as a statement of purposeful defiance.

In an evening that covered most of solo studio projects, Hunter wrapped up a few loose ends in his encores, including a bit of surprise. The latter came in his version of Bob Dylan's “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” which was part of a medley, of sorts, that included a take on the aforementioned Manilow hit, and the song that endures as his probable calling card among classic rock cognoscenti, David Bowie-via-Mott-The-Hopple’s “All The Young Dudes.” And just as that number, both prematurely curmudgeonly and anthemic in intent, has endured, the young dudes and dames scattered throughout the audience could well be inspired by Hunter's example of aging gracefully and rockingly.
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