Ian Hunter And The Rant Band Rock Cleveland’s Beachland Ballroom
Ian Hunter sold out the Beachland Ballroom on Friday, Oct. 28, kicking off the Halloween weekend with a spirit that's earned the town its anthem 'Cleveland Rocks.'
It's only been four years since Hunter and his band (Mark Bosch and James Mastro on guitar, Paul Page on bass, Andy Burton on keyboards, Steve Holly on drums) played here, but during that time, plenty has changed. One of the positive changes include Hunter's setlist, which was overflowing with surprises.
In 2009 Hunter released the 'Man Overboard' record and reunited with his former bandmates from Mott The Hoople for a three night stand in London, England. In June 2011, Hunter's former manager Steve Popovich from Cleveland International passed away leaving a gaping hole in the lives of those who knew him.
Popovich had a passion for music and life that put him in a league of his own, and Friday's concert was dedicated to his memory. Pittsburgh's Joe Grushecky And The Houserockers opened the show with about half a dozen rockers, telling stories of Popovich and his unmatched character in between the songs. When Steve Popovich Jr. introduced Ian and the band, the applause meter went off the charts and took Hunter straight to the keyboard for the surprise opener 'All American Alien Boy.'
Hunter couldn't of looked more at ease, confidently going right into the 1989 single 'American Music,' a song that salutes all the musicians that inspired Hunter growing up. Soon to follow were two covers; 'Stand By Me' the Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller classic and a top notch version of John Lennon's 'Isolation' that found Hunter pounding on the keys with an intensity that would make the former Beatle grin.
When Hunter did pick up his guitar, he was armed with his harmonica and quickly morphed into that Dylan-esque character that he's been channeling since the very first Mott The Hoople record. He did take a moment to sweetly mention that he and his wife were celebrating their 39th wedding anniversary before launching into 'Alice' from the 1974 Mott The Hoople favorite 'The Hoople.' That surprise was followed by another when the 1971 Island records nugget 'Waterlow' was performed to perfection.
Breaking out of the past, it felt like Hunter played 'Man Overboard' just to validate that he's every bit the songwriter today that he was 40 years ago. The band were really groovin' by the time they played 'When The Daylight Comes' and 'Sweet Jane.' Hunter was back on the keyboards for what turned out to be the shining number of the night 'It Ain't Easy When You Fall/Shades Off' from his first solo album. The latter part of the song is a Hunter composed spoken word piece but in Cleveland he gave the poem new life by singing it and it worked out brilliantly.
'All The Way From Memphis' and 'Cleveland Rocks' shook the place as the crowd cheered the band on and Hunter added a "Popovich rocks" in the chorus which only added fuel to the fire. Topping that off with a killer version of 'The Moon Upstairs' from Mott The Hoople's 'Brain Capers' record was another unexpected delight.
Then, like water to a flame, the mood became somber and quite serious as the band started playing 'Michael Picasso.' This is the tribute song that Hunter wrote for his best mate and former guitarist, the late Mick Ronson and for all of that songs beauty, it's a heartbreaking number. Shouts of "Ronno" could be heard throughout the venue and the overly heated room suddenly felt 30 degrees cooler.
As if to snap the audience out of their daze the band closed the performance with the sing-a-long swan song of Mott The Hoople's 'Saturday Gigs' followed by the David Bowie-penned 'All The Young Dudes. Halloween weekend couldn't have started out any better, for in this case, Ian Hunter was all about the treats.