Ian Hunter & the Rant Band in Kent, Ohio, and the Greying Of Live Rock & Roll by Ricki C.

(An alternate - somewhat longer - version of this entry appeared previously 

in  Ricki's blog, Growing Old With Rock & Roll.)    


My lovely wife Debbie and I made a road trip Saturday Oct. 5th to see Ian Hunter & the Rant Band at Kent Stage, a truly great venue in Kent, Ohio.  Kent's rather unfortunate claim to fame is that it houses Kent State University, where on May 4th, 1970, four Kent State University students were shot to death and nine wounded by a detachment of National Guardsmen.  I was a senior in high school on that day and harbor my own 1960's-derived conspiracy-theory thoughts on the subject - i.e. that then-President Richard M. Nixon called up then-Governor James Rhodes and said, "Let's put an end to this Vietnam War campus-protest nonsense. Kill some solidly Midwest students.  No one will really take it all that seriously if it's New York City or California, we need to make a statement and an example in Middle America."  (I offer as evidence of my theory that two black students were killed and 12 were wounded by police gunfire on May 15th, 1970, just eleven days later at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi.  Nobody seems to remember that incident and Neil Young never wrote any songs about those kids.)

However, Governmental Murder For Hire is not our topic today. Today's topic is Ian Hunter & The Rant Band live.

My live rock & roll encounter previous to this Ian Hunter show was a Rolling Stones tribute band at the Columbus, Ohio, Hollywood Casino.  (click here to see pencilstorm entry Sept.27th)   It's becoming increasingly problematic to me that, at 61 years old, I find myself attending only shows that connect back to my 20's in the 1970's, my heyday of rock & roll.  I don't necessarily want to be one of those people who won't go see young, up-and-coming bands, but I am.

After an enjoyable opening set by Amy Rigby & Wreckless Eric (who, by the way, sounds EXACTLY like he did back in 1978 on the Stiffs Live record) the mighty Rant Band took the stage and slammed into "What For" from the new When I'm President album, not-so-subtly announcing that this was not going to be an Oldies Show, that new Hunter material was going to be featured.  Ian ambled onto the stage, making a great entrance in a long-sleeve white shirt & black jeans, looking incredibly fit, trim & vital, belying his 74 years on the planet.  The second song of the set was "Once Bitten Twice Shy," serving equal notice that Ian wasn't going to ignore The Hits in the show.

And therein might lie my problem with The Greying Of Live Rock & Roll: audience resistance to New Material in lieu of Crowd Favorites.  I may not be giving the audience at Kent Stage enough credit, but it seemed to me that a rather large majority of the crowd were there for a Nostalgia Night.  They wanted to hear Mott The Hoople material like "All The Way From Memphis," "Golden Age Of Rock & Roll," and, of course, "All The Young Dudes" and Ian solo hits "Just Another Night" (just about the only Radio Hit that didn't get played) and "Cleveland Rocks."  (Kent is, after all, a stone's throw from the hometown of the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.)

I really have to wonder how many audience members in attendance at this show have bought - or are even aware of the existence of - Ian's four brilliant 21st-century releases: Rant, Shrunken Heads, Man Overboard and the aforementioned When I'm President.  (More on that in my Growing Old With Rock & Roll August 2nd, 2013 blog entry Ian Hunter (w/ Mick Ronson) "Once Bitten Twice Shy." And all the Bonus Video Friday blogs in August featured Hunter and/or Mott The Hoople.)  Also, disturbingly, there were precious few young people at the show - fifty & up seemed to be the order of the day.  My wife Debbie, many years my junior, might have been one of the youngest people in attendance.

So the Rant band plowed through a truly rocking set, mixing in newer tunes like "Black Tears," "Shrunken Heads" and "Just The Way You Look Tonight" with the Crowd Favorites mentioned above, before smashing to a close with the new album's "Ta Shunka Witco (Crazy Horse)" - delivered with a venom wholly in keeping with the song's message of America's betrayal of her indigenous people - and "Life."  I think Ian has penned "Life" as a ongoing dedicated set-ender, to replace the now 40-year old "All The Way From Memphis," or the 39-year old "Saturday Gigs," the songs that have concluded Hunter shows the last few times I've seen him, further reinforcing that this is not an Oldies Show, that this is a band that can look fearlessly into the future and "Laugh, because it's only life."  - Ricki C. / Oct. 7th, 2013