Michael Monroe’s tour stopped by at the restaurant Kaivohuone in Naantali yesterday. The band is rising smoothly: the latest album Sensory Overdrive was released in the USA and Canada in August, the single ”’78” is frequently played on the radio in Finland and the band shall perform in several big cities in the USA and UK before the end of the year.
During the past 18 months I have seen Michael Monroe four times on stage, but yesterday’s lineup was already the third one for me. Last year Steve Conte’s fellow guitarist was Ginger, whereas last month the guitarists were Conte and the ex-Hanoi Rocks player Nasty Suicide who, however, wasn’t an official member of Monroe’s band. Yesterday the audience saw the new guitarist Dregen, who also played on Michael’s single ”Pirates of the Baltic Sea” three years ago.
The band has been named after its singer, but all members are well-known musicians. Dregen is one of the founders of Backyard Babies. The drummer Karl Rockfist (Rosqvist) has played in Danzig and Steel Prophet. The bassist Sami (formerly Sam) Yaffa was in Hanoi Rocks in the 1980s and joined the legendary New York Dolls in 2004 when their original bassist Arthur ”Killer” Kane died in leukemia. Also the current Michael Monroe guitarist Steve Conte joined the Dolls in 2004.
Then again, naming the band Michael Monroe was wise for three reasons. The first one is obviously marketing: people already know Michael Monroe and the name tells what kind of music the band plays. Secondly, they play songs from the whole career of Michael. The Hanoi Rocks, Demolition 23. and solo releases all fit together at gigs. The Hanoi Rocks years were the high point, but Michael’s style has been more or less the same for decades. Michael is a traditional rocker whose popularity isn’t based on surprising the audience with new tricks.
The third argument for using Michael’s name can be seen at gigs. The band has five experienced musicians, but when they play live, the audience is mainly interested in Michael. His stage charisma and interaction with the audience are unique in Finland’s rock scene. Besides, although both Conte and Dregen are talented performers, they are wallflowers compared to Andy McCoy.
Kaivohuone is a rather impressive and large villa where famous musicians have played since the 19th century. The stage is remarkably small and there is nothing between the band and the audience. My friend and I were in the front row, so Michael almost kicked us in the head. The distance was so short that Steve Conte could have easily given me a sup of his wine – both he and Sami drank a whole bottle during the gig. I got my first pick ever by taking one from Steve’s microphone stand.
It was impossible to hear Michael’s harmonica in the first half of the gig, but the technical problem was solved while the band played ”Dysfunctional”, a Demolition 23. song that has now returned to the setlist and should stay there. The live version of ”Dysfunctional” ends with a really cool harmonica part, so the timing for fixing the PA system was perfect.
This tour shows how well the band’s live sound has been captured to Sensory Overdrive. But one could also say that gigs resemble the album, because the performances don’t have much speaking or improvised playing, except in the encore. Only once did Michael and Dregen mention yesterday that the audience was great. This time it really was.
- Trick of the Wrist
- Got Blood?
- Modern Day Miracle
- Hammersmith Palais
- Nothin’s Alright
- Not Fakin’ It
- Bombs Away
- Back to Mystery City
- Malibu Beach Nightmare
- Dead, Jail or Rock ’N’ Roll
- I Wanna Be Loved
- Taxi Driver
- I Feel Alright
P.S. Here’s a picture of me, Michael and Sami. The photo was shot last year.