Michael Monroe - Islington Academy London
Helsinki rocker Michael Monroe is best known for his work with legendary glam punk group Hanoi Rocks. The band released a quartet of albums in the first half of the 80s before disbanding in 1985. Michael then went on to release numerous solo collections and collaborate with other artistes, including Guns N' Roses on two of their albums, Use your illusion 1 and The Spaghetti Incident?. Hanoi Rocks reformed in 2002, releasing a further three albums, splitting up for the second time in 2008 after the band played eight sold out farewell gigs in six days at the Tavastia Club, in Helsinki. Michael has recently formed another band touring under his name featuring Ginger from The Wildhearts, Hanoi's Sam Yaffe and New York Dolls guitarist Steve Conte.
I first became aware of Mr Monroe's work around the time of Hanoi album Two Steps From The Move. I had a girlfriend that was a huge fan so I was subjected to the music whether I liked it or not! Luckily I did, resulting in numerous Hanoi purchases, even after our love had fizzled out and died! I sadly never got round to watching Hanoi live, even missing their gigs this century and I only have myself to blame for not catching Michael and his new band at Austin's SXSW last month, as I almost went along to watch the gang twice, changing my mind at the last minute. Luckily I had a chance to rectify the situation, heading down to London's Islington Academy to see the boys in action.
It was nice to see a mix of people at the venue, with a lot of younger audience members in the building. I have to say that it did surprise me slightly and a smile was brought to my face while sitting in the photo pit as I overhead two girls in their late teens / early 20's that were leaning on the front barrier singing along to the Lords Of the New Church 80s classic "Russian Roulette" a few minutes before the band took to the stage.
This was the first act that I'd seen in ages that actually had their own intro music, entering to some Spaghetti Western soundtrack (pardon my ignorance!), with the band exploding into "Nothin's Alright", a track from Michael's side project Demolition 23. The set was pulled from every part of Michael's career, with Hanoi tracks mixing with solo material, including a handful of new songs.
He may have been gigging for many a year but he seemed to have an unending supply of energy, bounding around the stage, performing the splits on numerous occasions and scaling lighting rigs at various points in the set. This was far from a solo gig though as the rest of the band were almost as equally in your face , with numerous guitar solos and some great backing vocals from Ginger and Sam, sharing a mic, giving it that old school feeling. The performance really delivered, producing quite simply a rollicking and riotous hour and a bit!
High points of the evening included a Hanoi Rocks three song salvo towards the end of the set, with "Back to Mystery City", "Tragedy" and "Malibu Beach" rolled out in succession but my favourite moment came in the shape of another trio of tracks featuring Hanoi's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" followed by the band's take on The Damned's "Love Song" and "Machine Gun Etiquette" as they were just sensational! Hell, they even managed to wheel out UK Subs frontman Charlie Harper during the encore for Subs song "Endangered Species", adding more fun to a great evening.
I'd certainly recommend catching Michael and the boys if they come to your town anyway.