Michael Monroe @ Birmingham Institute, 9th October 2015
If there really was a ‘school of rock’, Mr Monroe could be the subject matter for a number of lessons, including how to survive in the rock and roll industry and a guide to being the ultimate front man. This UK tour, sees Mr Monroe supporting his latest release “Blackout States”, which was actually released on the day of this gig.
Despite the fact that he must have stood out in front of a crowd a million times, he still hits the stage here in Birmingham full of energy and passion. Throughout the set, he is determined to ensure he engages with the crowd and shows the enthusiasm of someone enjoying their first taste of success. He is full of style and showmanship as he struts across the stage and frequently flings the microphone around his neck. Indeed, you can only hope his band are paid danger money given the way he throws his mike stand around.
The great joy of seeing a Michael Monroe show now, is that you get to experience songs from throughout his career. As is appropriate, plenty of tunes come from his more recent solo albums. Tonight, this includes tracks like “78” from Sensory Overdrive and the brilliant “Ballad Of The Lower East Side” from Horns and Halos. What is particularly surprising, however, is the reaction that the songs from the new album receive, given most of the crowd probably hadn’t even heard it. Although, we shouldn’t be surprised as the new album is possibly his best solo output (review coming here soon!). “Old King’s Road” is just a great punk n roll song, whilst “Down With The Ship” is great sing a long fun, with it’s glam rock swagger. Mixed with these, is a real old solo favourite, “Man With No Eyes”, a song which brings a change of pace and also a timely reminder of his brilliant “Not Fakin’ It” album.
We also get to hear some of his great songs from bands gone by. This includes the sadly short lived Demolition 23, whose “Hammersmith Palais” is the epitome of punk rock spirit. Whilst far from being any kind of nostalgia act, for older fans like ourselves, it is particularly pleasing to hear songs from the legendary Hanoi Rocks. The emphasis tonight is really on keeping everything lively, so we get songs like “Motorvatin’”, “Tragedy” and “Malibu Beach”, all of which are genuine classics.
It would be unfair not to also mention the band, as surely part of Michael Monroe’s secret to longevity, both on record and live, is his decision to work with great artists. The band tonight are the perfect balance of professionalism and rock n roll swagger. They include Michael’s long term compadre Sami Yaffa and also the super cool Steve Conte (any man who performs in the New York Dolls has to be the epitome of cool!). Having seen Dregen return to his day job, the twin guitar attack is completed by Rich Jones, a man who seems to collect membership of brilliant bands (e.g. The Black Halos, The Loyalties and Role Models to name just a few!).
When the band kick into “Dead, Jail or Rock N Roll” you really believe that over the years these are all options that Mr Monroe has faced. One thing’s for sure, every person at this gig will be damn pleased that he continues to rock n roll. Anyone who wants to see a band living and breathing what music is all about, needs to go to one of these shows. If it’s too late for that, buy the new album now and make sure you don’t miss them next time they hit these shores.