By 1974, Mott the Hoople was quite possibly the greatest concert band in the world, a blur of high-energy rock, high content poetics, and high camp costuming -- Ian Hunter the tough guy in leather and shades; Ariel Bender the street kid, all satin hat flash; Overend Watts, the freakoid in skyscraper thigh boots; and a live show which out-dressed the lot of them. If any band deserved a live album, it was Mott. And if any live album failed to deliver, it was this one. Today, the album's deficiencies seem less severe. Though the band's Bender era remains considerably less well-documented than the earlier Mick Ralphs period, still live material has poured out from a variety of sources, from the Shades of Ian Hunter compilation to the All the Young Dudes box set, and onto the spring 2001 reissue of Bender's own Floodgates solo album (an excellent version of "Here Comes the Queen"). There's even a quasi-legal fan club release for the 1974 King Biscuit broadcast which remains the highpoint of the band's live career. Live, however, remains the only official document of the glory, and the problems commence on the back cover -- a great shot of the band performing "Marionette" on a stage hung with puppets, when the song itself is nowhere in sight. Two shows recorded five months and two continents apart (London's Hammersmith Odeon in December 1973; New York's Uris Theater in May 1974) are highlighted by just seven songs and one medley. The hits "All the Young Dudes" and "All the Way From Memphis," of course, are present, but the remainder of the track list is bizarre to say the least -- the ballads "Rest in Peace" and "Rose" were British B-sides only, while "Sucker," "Walking With a Mountain," and "Sweet Angeline" were never much more than filler on their own original albums (Dudes, Mad Shadows, and Brain Capers, respectively). The medley is mightier, spanning both Mott's own history, and rock & roll's in general -- who, after all, would deny the band their own exalted place in the lineage which stretches from "Whole Lotta Shakin'" to "Get Back" and beyond (the uncredited snatch of Bowie's "Jean Genie")? But even here, one cannot help but think more must have happened that night than a breakneck assault on a handful more cuts -- and sure enough, it did. The Hammersmith show was the night when the management tried to halt the gig during the closing number, and wound up causing a riot. The liner notes remember it well, but the "Mountain" here was found in New York. It is a great album in its own way, the band are in terrific form, and Bender plays the guitar hero better than anyone else of his entire generation. But Mott gigs, like their albums, were about more than simple snapshots -- that was what made the band so important, that's what made their music so memorable. And that's what the fearfully episodic Live completely overlooks.
AllMusic Review by Dave Thompson