An absence of more than five years but, looking around, it could have been a week ago the mental beat was last shaking the capital. Hanoi Rocks, the band that launched a thousand others; Guns and Roses, the Dogs, Poison, Quireboys all borrowed from Hanoi as much as they borrowed from the Dolls, Stones, and Stooges, passing the torch down the line. But this is a Michael Monroe gig, NOT a Hanoi Rocks gig. More of that later.
At last the long wait is over. Shakedown does exactly that, and the demented doll is centre stage, a Malibu Beach Bum, pogoing, arms flailing, far more Iggy Pop than Steven Tyler, far more Mike Monroe than any of the many imitators currently doing the rounds. Eyes open a mile wide, smudged mascara, a pout that Hollywood starlets would die for, and a recently cropped barnet, he looks cooler than any man deserves to be.
She's No Angel is dispensed with and Mike tells us he's got an ear infection, but it doesn’t seem to effect his performance. His voice sounds better to me than it did in Hanoi days. "When the tough get going the weak get screwed" introduces Man With No Eyes, followed by Thrill Me and All Nights With The Lights On. The main-man is faultless, working the crowd into a frenzy, oozing rock n' roll from every pore, and loving every minute of it. A shame the same can't be said for the rest of the band. All great musicians, but content to lounge at the back of the stage and leave the ass kickin' to Mr. Monroe, only really moving when he forces them into it. Where's the danger, that fire that put Hanoi Rocks out there on the edge?
The next two songs are dedicated to Razzle. Everyone has read the reviews of the earlier gigs and knows what is coming. Tragedy and Malibu Beach raise the temperature 100 degrees and the crowd go mental with any memory of the earlier part of the set is wiped out. The real treat is still to come. When Nasty Suicide takes to the stage and the dirtiest version of Taxi Driver I’ve ever heard grinds out, the place truly erupts and the rest of the band are kicked into life by the sparks that fly between Michael and Nasty. This is alive, this is vibrant, this what we all came to see. Oh, what could have been!
An almost never ending medley of Little Richard songs brings the show and the tour to a close. Michael really doesn't want to leave the stage. It’s taken so long to get back here and he sure as hell wants to wring every last minute out if it. A good gig, but also sad. I suppose I've got to accept that, as I said earlier, this is Michael Monroe, not Hanoi Rocks, but I can't help judging the guy by the standards he helped to set. What could have been, or if you're an optimist, what might be. Whichever way you look at it Michael Monroe is a star and a survivor, living the life he sings about and believes in.
Text: Simon Robinson
Photo: Claudia Cooper