December 21, 2017

Pictures of Yann Charles,

Molly Hatchet is one of the most important bands in my musical career and I did not want to miss this passage in Paris under any circumstances! I discovered their first album when it was released in 1978 and I did it to death as well as the following ones... I had the privilege of attending their first concert in Paris for the recording of the legendary TV show Chorus on Friday, September 7, 1979 and that one I'll never forget … Danny Joe Brown - lead vocals, Dave Hlubek - lead guitars, Duane Roland - lead & rhythm guitars, Steve Holland - lead & rhythm guitars, Banner Thomas - bass guitars, Bruce Crump – drums… they were all there and at the end of this extraordinary concert, Dave Hlubek came to present to some happy few, including yours, the visual of the new album to be released "Flirtin 'With Disaster"!
From then on, I followed the group as close as possible and except for the 1983 concert at La Mutualité that I missed because I lived in Africa at that time, I think I missed none of their passages in France. I even participated in the launch in France of their 6th album "The Deed Is Done" in 1984 when I worked at CBS / Epic. Most fans hate this album, finding it too FM but it is wrong because it contains little pearls like "Satisfied Man", "Backstabber" or "Stone In Your Heart".

But back to the concerts of MH in our beautiful country. After the Empire, I saw them at the Élysée Montmartre in 1990 for the Lightning Strikes Twice Tour. The group had just left Epic following the very average scores of "The Deed Is Done" (despite my efforts to push it in France, no I laugh!) And had signed at Capitol but not for long. Danny Joe Brown was back as a vocalist, but Dave Hlubek was gone on addiction to various substances. It was Bobby Ingram from the Danny Joe Brown Band who had replaced him and that's where the trouble started for the original members of Molly Hatchet since Bobby quickly took over the band and became the disputed leader! All of the early members left to never return except for Dave Hlubek who kept in touch with Bobby and invited himself 20 years later to give some late heritage and historical credibility to the ensemble.

When I saw MH in 2003 at the Élysée for the tour of the 25th anniversary, so there was not a single original member of the band but I found the ensemble of Bobby being quite up to it ... Phil McCormack was then a worthy successor to Danny Joe Brown who unfortunately had to die 2 years later. Bobby Ingram seemed to be the ideal guitarist for MH even if we could regret the time of the 3 guitarists carrying out the manoeuvre… John Galvin was always there on the keyboards, in office since "No Guts, No Glory", and thus became the oldest member of the group and is still today! As for the drummer Shawn Beamer he had just joined the Southern formation and is still behind the drums in 2017. The band was no longer at a major but continued to release quite correct albums at SPV, a German label, because Molly has never neglected Europe, unlike most Southern formations, except for Skynyrd.

It was at the Plan in Ris-Orangis in 2009 that Molly Hatchet layed down its fly cases for an excellent performance. Dave Hlubek had returned but in a precarious state of health and it is essentially Bobby who did the honours with the guitars. The band had recruited a legend of Southern rock in the person of Tim Lindsey to play bass. Phil, John, Shawn were still there, long serving. The only drawback to this date in the Plan, the band refused to sign at the end of the concert anything other than the t-shirts of the current tour, breaking with the tradition of signing the old albums. A bit as if they wanted to ignore the legacy of the group and especially to make easy money to the cost of fans while selling their merchandising at a high price!

Same ensemble the following year but this time at the Trabendo for the Justice tour with the fantastic Natchez opening... Dave Hlubek always seemed more exhausted but the band had given that evening its best to a Parisian audience over the moon.

In June 2012, it's at the Hellfest in Clisson that Molly Hatchet made a brief appearance on the Mainstage. Unfortunately the public will spend a little side of this Southern legend and will favor the other veterans Lynyrd Skynyrd who will shake Clisson a few hours later...

And we arrive at this evening in December 2017 for the return of Molly Hatchet at the Trabendo as part of a Christmas tour in Europe. The band does not have a new album to sell and these concerts are just the opportunity to reconnect with European fans. Dave Hlubek has left us recently and the band will honor him tonight, omitting to mention Banner Thomas, Bruce Crump, Duane Roland, DJB or even Riff West, all gone to the paradise (or hell) of Southern rockers! There is definitely only one guitarist in MH and we must admit that it is a little light on some songs like "Fall Of The Peacemakers", Molly’s "Free Bird" where the 2 or 3 guitars usually engaged in a merciless duel ... I don’t know if it's to hide this lack but the band plays tonight very loudly, much too loud and the walls of Trabendo shake and so our ears. Why push all the knobs to the max? It's just ridiculous and the sound of the concert will be ruined during all the evening, too bad! Why not use more of John's keyboards to compete with Bobby's guitar? Because frankly, this good Mr Galvin seems to be really bored and fulfills the job without much conviction. Shawn still has the fan at its maximum power next to his drums and this effect of spiky hair all around his head begins to feel rehashed and borders on the grotesque! As we arrive at the end of the tour, Phil McCormack does not have a so strong voice and it is sorely felt where he has to push his voice like "Flirtin 'With Disaster" or "Jukin' City"! It's finally on Bobby and Tim that the show is based. The guitarist smiles a little and seems aware that this formula with only a guitar quickly reaches its limits even if it makes a lot of effort to fill this gap… Tim, he is the happiest of all, he shakes his bass copiously and is willingly approaching Bobby to reproduce the traditional synchronized movements of guitars. In fact it is Phil who twice summarizes the concerns of Molly Hatchet today ... On the one hand by insisting heavily on the fact that John Galvin has been part of the group for over 30 years, just trying to convince the skeptics and grumpies that Molly Hatchet is not just a tribute band in 2017.On the other hand by introducing Bobby as the absolute leader of the band with great deference as if with a simple snap of his fingers all other current members could be fired! Well, let's be clear, the concert is not bad in itself, but we're expecting more from a band that filled the stadiums almost 40 years ago and played with the Nugent, Johnny Winter, Aerosmith, and so on.

The setlist is well chosen with all the hits of the first 5 years of the band but at that time none of the current members were there and it's still symptomatic that only two (!) titles played at the Trabendo are from the Bobby Ingram period: "Son Of The South" and "Devil's Canyon" ...

I think we will have understood that this Trabendo concert is not the best I've seen from this legend of "Southern Rock", far from it. It is very unfortunate that the hatchet is still unburied with the only surviving member of the Molly Hatchet of the 70's namely Steve Holland who launched a competing project in the United States Dreams I'll Never See, a tribute to the original Molly Hatchet that he produces and where the son of Danny Joe Brown is the singer! So we end up with 2 "tributes" at the moment, one official, the other less but in the end it is the credibility of the legacy of Molly Hatchet -and the audience at the same time- that bears the costs…

I must say a few words about the opening band Dezperadoz ... This German band founded by an ex-Sodom (!) plays a high quality "Southern rock / country & western" and was able to convince those who had arrived early enough for the discover. It seems to have a relatively good reputation in Germany and will be at Wacken in 2018 anyway! It is also preparing a new tour that could go through France, so follow …
Thanks to Garmonbozia and A Jeter Prom …

Olivier CARLE

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