Molly Hatchet + Federal Charm (MC)
Friday 7th December
Dingwalls, Camden, London
It’s great to be on the receiving end of serendipity, but three hits in a short space of time generally doesn’t happen to me. At the start of year, I stumbled across Lynyrd Skynyrd’s farewell tour dates in the US and realised that they were playing just up the road from where I was going to be staying on holiday. At the same time. Marvellous; ticket booked.
I am sure I read that support was going to be Kid Rock (tolerable only in that it offered a later arrival time) or Paul Rodgers (which would do nicely). However, when checking later, it had been finalised to include both Blackfoot and Molly Hatchet. Happy days… Jacksonville’s finest all on the same bill. Great show; it’s fair to say that my ridiculously high expectation levels were more than surpassed with all three bands (and Alabamian interloper Jamey Johnson) being totally superb.
Fast forward a whole summer, and I gabble enthusiastically (and probably endlessly) about the above to AJ when unexpectedly bumping into him for the first time in ages at the Steve Hackett RFH show… and so, I find myself as a guest WRC reporter at tonight’s Molly Hatchet gig at Dingwalls, middle show of their latest five date-jaunt across the UK.
Support came from Manchester-based Federal Charm, a four piece band comprising guitarist Paul Bowe, L.D. Morawski on bass, drummer Josh Zahler and vocalist Tom Guyer who delivered an energetic, Bluesy Rock set packed with choppy, catchy riffs, mostly at pace, and always with a good degree of oomph. Sandwiched in the middle was a fantastic, more traditional Blues-Rock track which saw an impressive solo from Bowe and the best vocals of the set from Guyer, along with a great cover of Tom Petty’s ‘I Should Have Known It’. They released their third album, ‘Passenger’, in September, and are well worth adding to your ‘to check out’ list if you’ve not come across them yet… although considering their first album was released in 2013, it’s probably me who’s late to the party here.
After some strange intro tracks in the interval, presumably from the house, I frowned a little inwardly when Whitesnake’s ‘Here I Go Again’ started… how wrong was I !? Talk about a crowd pleaser… MH took to the stage with a packed Dingwalls all hollering along with Dave’s (sorry; David’s) chorus. “This is a genuine Rock ‘n’ Roll Club ….hell, yeah!” declared a delighted looking Phil McCormack, before the band launched into traditional opener ‘Whisky Man’.
No deviation from other recent sets, with ‘Bounty Hunter’, ‘Gator Country’, and ‘It's All Over Now’ all following on, with those looking from the left had side of the stage having to watch out for countless plectrums being flicked out by Bobby Ingram without skipping a note.
I’m personally not a massive fan of the art form known as the drum solo (with possible exceptions allowed for absolute masters like Peart & Minneman), but I enjoyed Shawn Beamer’s short solo sandwiched in-between ‘Devil’s Canyon’ and ‘Beatin’ the Odds’, particularly the double-pedal blast-out at the end which I didn’t so much hear as feel in my kidneys.
‘One Man’s Pleasure’ preceded ‘Fall of the Peacemakers’, with Phil emotionally declaring how much the song meant to him, even after the countless times he they have played it. I love the song and agree with the sentiments, although Phil’s allegiance pledge at the end might have been a little bit awkward for us more restrained Brits! But maybe that’s just me.
Whether there was a bit of a mis-time or a late start I don’t know - there was no encore, as such – but after ‘Jukin City’ lifted the pace and lightened things up a bit again, a closing trio of ‘Dreams I’ll Never See’, ‘Boogie No More’, and ‘Flirtin’ With Disaster’ lifted an already great night even higher.
Like Skynyrd, so many former members are sadly no longer with us, a point touchingly referenced by the much underrated Ingram… there have been no ‘original’ members since the sad passing of founder and main songwriter Dave Hlubek in 2017, but with Ingram and keyboardist John Galvin each having more than thirty years service under their belt, MoCormack more than twenty and ‘new boys’ Beamer and bassist Tim Lindsay a mere fifteen or so, these guys have more than earnt the right to carry the Molly Hatchet torch.
And how they carry it. They play with genuine enjoyment… not just the professionalism and quality you’d expect form a band of such long standing, but playing old songs (nine of the twelve were from the band’s first two albums, released before any current members had joined) they’ve probably played night after night with the same enthusiasm with which they are received by fans who haven’t heard them live for years, if ever.
They seem totally genuine guys too. Phil McCormack repeatedly spotted long-time fans in the audience that he knew from previous shows and made a point of greeting them: “I remember him from twenty years ago… we’re old, but we’re still alive!”
Having just enjoyed Molly Hatchet in a 19,000 capacity open air amphitheatre (and in the warm, to boot), I must admit I wondered how I would find them somewhere as… errr… intimate as the 500 capacity Dingwalls. Truth is, they killed it. 24 hours on, my back still aches from standing for so long and my ears are still ringing from the venue being so small (yes, Phil…we’re old J ), but I’m sitting here with a smile on my face thinking about it.
I was totally hoping that Skynyrd would not only extend the farewell tour to Europe but would also bring the full package from the US leg to the UK for another chance to see these three great bands all on the same bill. With dates announced I’ve got half of that to look forward to, but the second half looks like one of those ‘Dreams I’ll Never See’. Or at least, see again.
But I’ll always have Dingwalls.