British rock 'n' roll showed off both its past and future at the Bayou last night with excellent sets by an old hand and a new band. Ian Hunter, who founded Mott the Hoople in London in 1969, gave evidence of a strong comeback with all his old energy streamlined into a more focused sound. Any Trouble, a Manchester quintet whose first album appeared last year, proved that England's new wave has not yet exhausted its well of impressive talent.
Hunter's new album was co-produced by The Clash's Mick Jones, and this connection seems to have stimulated Hunter. With his red curls spilling out below his top hat and over his shades, he sang with his old rollicking irreverence but without the distractions of his former theatricality. The excess was cut away, and an unapologetic, more political Hunter emerged. Several new songs wittily attacked conservative governments and urban chaos but retained Hunter's characteristic good humor. Supported well by keyboardist Tom Mandel and guitarist Robbie Alter, Hunter gave both the old favorites and the newest compositions a convincing immediacy.
Any Trouble is the latest special band to come out of Britain's pub-rock genre, which has already produced Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, Joe Jackson, Rockpile and Squeeze. Any Trouble's lead singer and chief songwriter, Clive Gregson, is not an imitator but a worthy colleague. His sturdy songs were built around chunky rhythm chords, attractive melody hooks and love lyrics that stubbornly denied both romantic innocence and bitter cynicism.