Monmouth Illinois, Rivoli Theater, 150 people, Molly Hatchet. Realistically how could it get better? The answer is it doesn't. Originally this show was to have taken place in April but was cancelled for unknown reasons. Six months later Hatchet returned to make the gig up, pretty much in the middle of nowhere to a predictably sparse crowd. I like it that way. It shows the real fans, the ones with the credibility to turn out and support the few great remaining bands of our time. True, Hatchet does not resemble their original incarnation, with only Dave Hlubek a nod to the original lineup, but considering Bobby Ingram has been with the band since 1989 and vocalist Phil McCormack since 1995, that's far longer than many originals anyway. This was a long awaited show for myself, one of the true purveyors of Southern rock finally here on my doorstep.
Despite sounding like a derelict and abandoned movie theater from the 1950s, the Rivoli is a spacious and first-rate facility in the heart of bustling downtown metropolis Monmouth. Despite the thick crowd, I somehow managed to find a parking spot right outside the building despite arriving an hour after the doors opened. Once in I managed to walk in undetected without paying, the attendant with her back turned as I entered. Taking a seat in one of the deckchairs I expect the gig to start but after half an hour and a hurried and painful shit in the toilet, still nothing. After an inordinate amount of time wasting local act Iron Horse take the stage blasting out a full length set of covers.
'You Shook Me All Night Long'. 'Freebird'. 'T.N.T.' 'Schools Out'. 'Hot For Teacher.' 'Surrender' É no this can't be happening. To see grown men dig a cover of 'You've Got Another Thing Coming' is disconcerting. I wander to the front of the stage to take my position for Hatchet. Next to me are a couple of drunken 40-year-olds getting into the spirit of a sweat inducing cover of 'Raise A Little Hell'. One of them looks at my non participation and grabs my arm in an attempt to get some reaction out of me. I knock his six dollar drink out of his hand. He is never seen again.
There is no logical reason for a cover band to play an hour plus. There is some talent in this bandŐs ranks but it is wasted without any original tracks, not helped by a bass player with all the presence and charisma of a frozen pea. Once Iron Horse depart, the wait for Hatchet becomes more intense by the minute. I haven't felt this tense in years, for any band. The crowd filters to the front, all one hundred plus of them. Before you know it, there they are, at ten o clock sharp, Molly Hatchet in all their working class glory. For some reason the band is missing their keyboardist and third guitarist (Jimbo Manion), leaving just the double guitar tandem of Ingram and Hlubek, the latter so overweight he has to sit on a stool most of the night.
Hatchet buried the crowd with enthusiasm and old fashioned boogie. although an increasingly severe headache almost curtailed my enjoyment. As I stood perched dead center, up front, a drunken fan became hostile in his demands to hear 'Boogie No More'. 'Take it easy big fella' asked McCormack. It appeared the vintage likes of 'The Creeper', 'Gator Country', 'Dreams I'll Never See', 'Jukin' City', Flirtin' With Disaster', Fall Of The Peacemakers', Edge Of Sundown' and most grandly of all, 'Beatin' The Odds' weren't enough to satisfy him.
There was room for a drum solo from Shawn Beamer, which led to dunken cries of, 'That's weak!! I've seen better É open up!' Ingram delivered a 20-minute guitar solo which in all fairness was a tad too much. He looked at me and asked for some recognition and I was forced to feign enthusiasm. Several tracks off the latest album 'Warriors Of The Rainbow Bridge' were aired, to predictably little response, most of the crowd seemingly only familiar with 'Flirtin' With Disaster'. For those who showed most got into the spirit of the event, with handfuls of rude jigs taking place around me.
Fist banging, sore arm, hoarse voice and ringing ears. For untold years I had been waiting to do that and suffer the results at a Hatchet show. It's always nice when the results live up to the expectations, which is never the case usually. This type of boogie is timeless and to see the band having the time of their lives was satisfying. It might not resemble the Hatchet of 1978, but I feel the core members of this lineup are as credible, Hlubek an original anyway.
As I left the venue in jeans, shirtless and shoeless, ready to drive home drunk, I spotted Ingram heading out the back to the tour bus. 'Great show mate!' I told him. He studied my rudeness and offered 'thanks man'. No man, thank you.