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New Yorker Festival: Ian Hunter and Graham Parker

Filed under: New Yorker Festival   Tagged: , ,

Martin Schneider writes:

The interview/concert with Ian Hunter and Graham Parker at (Le) Poisson Rouge on Bleecker Street on Saturday night was ridiculously entertaining, and the most atypical New Yorker Festival event I've ever seen. I'd hazard a guess that the audience included more non-subscribers than usual. Why? Because the Mott the Hoople crazies were out in force.

Preliminary lubrication included free rounds of margaritas and tequila, which I recommend become standard practice for all future New Yorker Festival events. The first half of the show was talk; the second half, rock (albeit acoustic). The songs were good, but the really entertaining bit was the talk, because Hunter and Parker are cut from the same mold, irreverent, fun-loving, aged rock and roll scamps. I wouldn't say they took Ben Greenman's queries very seriously, but they aimed to entertain (with great success), and Greenman gleefully went along for the ride.

If this event had occurred in a movie, the governing conceit would be of two ridiculous washed-up old farts, basking in former glory and totally ridiculous. Fortunately, life isn't so pat, and there was nothing to suggest that Parker and Hunter ever stopped being formidable creatures; they're too talented and headstrong for that—and they know it. And besides, the idea that dissolute rock heroes of yore have anything to apologize for isn't very interesting—or true.

I mentioned that the crowd was a bit raucous. The fans' identification with both men, but particularly Hunter, was such that virtually every remark was met with either laughter or an intimate form of hostility: this last because when Hunter wasn't being scurrilous, he was being blunt, as when he revealed that he often doesn't relish performing or when he temporized about bringing the recently announced reunion of Mott the Hoople to New York City. So in between the laughs, you'd hear cries of "Aw c'mon!" and boos, but with not the slightest whiff of rejection. It was more like bargaining.

Moments after Parker said that the Beatles launched a million British bands, Hunter disagreed, noting that there was a brief window of time when the Beatles' success didn't appear to be all that remarkable; other acts had had two successive hits, after all. Besides, Hunter's a Stones guy.

Both men apparently opened for big '80s American rock acts. Parker related the difficulty of such gigs: crowds would yell "Fuck off, English faggots!" and then Steve Perry would launch Journey's set with the statement, "Are you ready for some real rock and roll!?" (Puke.) But even worse was Styx (everyone present seemed to agree). Hunter called Dennis DeYoung of Styx a "prat" and a "pillock." Ah, British invective.

Asked about the urge to keep writing songs after so much success, Hunter obliquely addressed the compulsion of the blank page with an odd (and American) comparison: "It's like, Rickey Henderson.... he didn't have a brain, he had a baseball field...."

I think very few people left disappointed. Kudos to the Festival for thinking outside the box here: this wasn't the usual Festival fare, but it was a highly enjoyable event that belies the elitism The New Yorker is always accused of.

Set List:

Graham Parker:
[Didn't catch the name -- new song?]
"Silly Thing"
"Things Are Looking Up Of Late" (?)
"New York Shuffle"

Ian Hunter:
"I Wish I Was Your Mother"
"Irene Wilde"
"Man Overboard"
"Once Bitten Twice Shy"

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