O2 Islington Academy, London
5th February 2014
Southern rock(or southern boogie) is the 1970s bastard son of rock and Metal and country and bluegrass and spawned some great bands with the Allman Brothers Band leaning towards the country side, Lynyrd Skynyrd keeping a foot in both camps and becoming the most successful worldwide while Blackfoot and Molly Hatchet gave the genre a harder edge.
Few new bands seem to be mining this fertile musical mixture and all the original bands are getting on a bit now so I decided to make a trip to London and see Molly Hatchet live for the first time as who knows how many chances I'll get.
Hatchet were formed in Florida in 1975 and so it's no surprise that they are down now to one original member in guitarist Dave Hlubeck but the other guitarist in the current line-up (they use a keyboard player now instead of the original set up of three guitars), Bobby Ingram, has been in the band since the 80s and singer Phil McCormack since the mid 90s so I still regard this as a legitimate line up of the band but to be truthful wasn't 100% sure what I would get.
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Any doubts on my part were quickly blown away as the band launched in to opening tune 'Whiskey Man' with a big "Hell Yeeeeaaaah" from Phil McCormack. Despite their age the band still tour a lot and this was their first gig for a month and they felt hungry, playing the crowd like it was an arena in the USA rather than a couple of hundred people in a club in London on a wet Wednesday night.
The band were effortlessly tight as very experienced bands often are and with the rich, warm but slightly raw vocals and a pretty good set list from their extensive back catalogue they really impressed me. 'Bounty Hunter' was another old favourite then they took the roof off the place with a storming version of 'Gator Country' with the twin lead guitar lines getting the crowd roaring.
'One Man's Pleasure' was a sign of how good they were at doing commercial sounding southern rock before they then took us into an epic mood with the keyboard led 'Edge Of Sundown' and epic multiple solos of the 'Freebird' style 'Fall Of The Peacemakers'.
The more recent 'Devil's Canyon' dropped the vibe down a little then we got a drum solo which I could have really done without. Why waste time you could use to play another song? I know the band may need a rest and Dave Hlubeck has become particularly rotund and keeps a permananet grumpy face on while playing very well but still, a bad choice in my opinion. Rant over!
Things got back to normal with the title track from 'Beatin' The Odds' with it's muscular riff and chest beating chorus though the more recent 'Son Of The South' seemed to let the momentum slip a little again and the jaunty 'Jukin' City' is not the finest example of their glory days.
The end of the main set was rescued by their classic cover of the Allmann Brothers' 'Dreams I'll Never See' which with it's building melody and momentum brought the crowd right back into the gig once more.
Encore time and again a strange set choice for me by starting with a leaden and uninspired cover of the Stones' 'Honky Tonk Woman' but they were saved from ending on a low by closing with a cracking and actually pretty heavy version of their biggest US hit 'Flirtin' With Disaster'.
The set list was a bit patchy here and there and I was disappointed that they didn't play the classic 'Boogie No More' despite promising they would in interviews. However I really enjoyed the vast majority of Hatchet's set, despite their ages and line up changes they still make a loud and damn fine country metal southern rock noise with some particularly fine guitar playing.