For those of us too young to remember the pre-plane crash Skynyrd, Jacksonville’s Molly Hatchet were among the standard bearers for southern rock during our formative musical years, with a turbocharged, triple guitar boogie that made our own homegrown bands like the Quo look tame. We may have missed their one UK appearance at 1979’s Reading Festival, but their Double Trouble Live album is rightly still spoken of in revered tones.
It was those memories that led me to brave a tube strike and watch the London show of their UK tour despite the fact that their modern day line-up, with only tenuous links to the original, had disappointed me on previous trips to these shores.
Warmly received by a worryingly sparse crowd, my lower expectations were pleasantly surprised enough by the same opening trio of ‘Double Trouble’ classics, ‘Whiskey Man’, ‘Bounty Hunter’ and the autobiographical ‘Gator Country’. Gruff singer Phil MacCormack sounded a whole lot better than his croaky performance at the same venue last time, even if he did appear somewhat light headed.
However it was already noticeable how founder member Dave Hlubek must only have been brought back to lend some spurious authenticity. He not only looked rather detached from his fun-loving, big-haired, energetic colleagues, but his soloing was mundane at best and it became painful to recall how superior the original versions were.
Fellow guitarist Bobby Ingram seemed to bear more than his share of guitar duties in a band once famed for multiple guitar excellence, while throwing some classic shapes, particularly impressing on ‘Devils Canyo’n, the one song in the set from their modern day line ups.
My gripe with the modern day Hatchet has been that many of the extended guitar jams that mark their very best material have been discarded, presumably into the bin marked ‘too difficult to play’. The same was again true as both ‘Edge of Sundown’, with some haunting piano work from John Galvin, and ‘Fall of the Peacemakers’, with the best twin guitar work of the evening, were both frustratingly halted before the long guitar solos.
Worse still, momentum was killed as during ‘The Creeper’ all the pace was taken out of the set with intros to the various band members and interminable and plain boring solo slots, and only with ‘Dreams I’ll Never See’, with an excellent closing solo from Bobby – whose guitar work was exemplary throughout - restoring respectability .
On the last tour, Hatchet belatedly brought back perhaps their all-time classic, ‘Boogie No More’, so I was confident the encores would take off, but instead it was absent, replaced by an utterly pointless cover of ‘Honky Tonk Women’, and though ‘Flirtin’ with Disaster’ was lively enough, I left even more disappointed than before in a set that had failed to even hit the 90 minute mark.
Anyone unfamiliar with the Molly Hatchet legend may have found this a mildly entertaining if cheesy demonstration of Southern rock. But considering there are other versions of classic bands with a virtually new line up who still do their predecessors legacy proud, this line-up of Hatchet really should be doing so much better.
Review and photos by Andy Nathan
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COLLATERAL Mr Big Shot (Roulette Media Records)
BABY HUSBAND Stop Thinking About Tomorrow (indie)
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EXPLORING BIRDSONG The River (indie)
MARISA AND THE MOTHS – Slave (indie)
CATTLE AND CANE I Wish I Knew Jesus (Like I Do)
KING VOODOO Creep (indie)
Featured Albums w/c 28 October (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 UNRULY CHILD Big Blue World (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 REDLINE Gods & Monsters (Escape Music)
14:00-16:00 WILDWOOD KIN (Silvertone/Sony)
Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)
MAGNUM Sleepwalking (1992)
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