Artist: Michael Monroe
Venue: Highline Ballroom (New York, NY)
Opener: The Last Vegas, The Dirty Pearls
Label: Independent Artist
It really was an amazing weekend for music if you lived in NYC and here is how it was playing out. It was now Sunday, the day of “rest” and Mother’s Day to boot, but there is no such a thing as slowing down the pace when you are wandering the Rock and Roll life seeking to jot down notes about all of the amazing happenings for the Metal Republic. For many fans this was actually event number three of a three night straight concert extravaganza that was happening in this part of the city. Friday night was Finland’s HIM who performed with We Are The Fallen and Dommin; while Saturday was the legendary Accept and looking back on them I could not believe just how good each of those shows were. Of course, tonight was guaranteed to be a special occasion as well for it was the long overdue return of Hanoi Rock’s Michael Monroe. The legendary and influential Glam Rock singer had not toured around these parts in almost a dozen years according to what I had learned and this gig at the Highline Ballroom was going to pull out all the stops from beginning to end. Monroe would bring along The Last Vegas and The Dirty Pearls as his openers and since each of the bands were of interest to me I got inside nice and early to bring you the best possible information on it.
The Last Vegas: After kicking back a couple of beers at a nearby bar I would arrive at the Highline only moments before The Last Vegas were taking to the stage. The name and the band were still rather new to me because while they had opened up for Motley Crue not too long ago, I had missed their performance and was rather annoyed when I heard other friends saying how impressed they were with their set. The band is now signed to Eleven Seven Music and plays a mixture of Old School Sleaze/Trash Hard Rock that is really enjoyable in the live sense. They are fronted by Chad Cherry who hit the stage like it was his gig and his alone. It was impressive and energetic to say the least and I was glad that I was getting to check them out this time around. The room was not yet all that crowded which was a shame since those who were elsewhere were missing out on a good kick off to the main event. They would play a number of tunes of their major label debut “Whatever Gets You Off” such as the title track, and “High Class Trash” and more. I know I have the album in my pile of to do reviews, and believe me I will be looking deeper into that now that I caught the band and liked them as much as I did. This is a good fit for Nikki’s label and its no wonder that they impressed him enough to open up for the Crue on one of their tours. They are also known for winning the Guitar World competition that helped them secure that honor. Musically there was something about these Chicago natives that reminded me of the Hair Metal band Wildside and I guess there were a couple of riffs that they did which made me think of that band. It’s not a bad thing at all since I rather liked their debut CD. The Dirty Pearls were up next and I had caught these home town boys once before. Let’s continue.
Dirty Pearls: As mentioned, I had only caught The Dirty Pearls once before and if memory serves me correctly, I think it was for the Twisted Sister Christmas show that was held in 2008. That is quite a bit of time to pass between checking in and seeing what a band is up to and back then I believe I liked what I saw but had some reservations about what they were trying to be as a band. Was it Glam, was it Trash or was it Old School Hard Rock with a stylish twist? I felt that the guys were offering up a little bit of everything in those styles and definitely knew how to play so let’s see how they had progressed since that night. Lucky for me and for everyone else The Dirty Pearls had been keeping hella busy and were honing the craft by opening and headlining many gigs around the city and out on Long Island to name a few. Lead singer Tommy London did not come off as a mix of Billy Idol meets Johnny Rotten as I got the impression of the last time but was instead now a suave presence of his own and apparently confident in his own Rock and Roll skin. They would open up with “Happy New Year” and soon present their signature tune of “NYC Is A Drug” and while it should be noted that the band is not promoting drug use, one cannot argue that the sheer essence of the Big Apple is a potent medicine. Twin lead guitarists Tommy and Johnny were trading the riffs in tune after tune and showing that they had some serious potential for greatness going forward and through it all drummer Marty was pounding away and switching between hats every now and again for better visual enjoyment. The band is still unsigned which surprises me and even more so that they went on after a label band but in all honesty they are from NYC and brought a healthy amount of people on their own. The bands music is available on Amazon.com and on I-tunes so do yourself a favor and check out a promising New York City band. A little Rock and Roll is good for the soul. Now, the moment we have all been waiting far too many years for had arrived. Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Michael Monroe.
Michael Monroe: Isn’t it amazing when you realize how someone so important to the Glam and Hard Rock genre has not been here touring as often as he should have been? I know that it is ridiculous to fathom because we get seemingly endless appearances from artist like Daughtry or Buckcherry, but very little if anything from folks like Monroe. That being said I was glad to be here for the show and could not wait to see how it played out. Michael hit the stage like a keg of dynamite and was a man in constant motion as he delivered his opening tune “Nothing’s Alright”. I will be honest and say that I only knew a handful of his tunes over the course of my life and was not really someone who followed him back when he fronted Hanoi Rocks. Despite this I did like whatever I managed to hear and I would not turn their stuff off if someone put a CD in my stereo or asked me to check out a video. For many, Michael Monroe embodies the spirit of Rock and Roll especially the Glam stuff since Hanoi Rocks was so revered. The sad part was that he became more like a Lord of the Underground scene but tonight he would rise from this dark domain and take command of his legions once and for all. He was decked out in leather pants and vest, and moved like a panther on a sheet of ice. He was everywhere that you turned your attention and he was captivating you until he chose that he didn’t want you to look at him anymore. It was amazing, and as you watched him you wondered if other lead singers in the audience were taking notes or friends of said types were doing it for them to make them aware of who was back in town.
Monroe was succeeding beyond the crowds wildest hopes and was doing so with a high powered band under his command. On bass he had Sami Yaffa and on guitar Steve Conte (both of the New York Dolls nowadays) and on second guitar was Ginger from The Wildhearts. In a brief couple of words, these guys were all kicking ass. Highlights for me were songs like “Dysfunctional” and “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams” and I had to say that he blew me away with his homage to the legendary The Damned by doing their “Machine Gun Etiquette” and “Love Song”. The place was moving like mad and to make sure that the thrills didn’t stop, Monroe would climb off of the stage and balance on the railing that separates the floor from the tables. This is no wider than one of those gymnast beams but he did it. The fans lost it, and after bringing a little saxophone and harmonica into the musical mix to keep it interesting he would climb over to the opposite side of the stage and scale all the way up until he reached the second landing. It’s only about ten feet and if he fell he would have been caught by the fans, but it was still something wild to see. It was the first time I saw this happening in the Highline Ballroom. Michael would leave the stage at around song sixteen and then return for a three song encore that closed up the show with “I Feel Alright”. It was time to take a collective breath because the Rock and Roll thrill ride was sadly over.
This was an awesome night from beginning to end and each band played with skill and made the anticipation for the next act all the more strong. If this became a full on touring package it would work without a doubt. Michael would only be doing a few more shows to my knowledge and then go back home. My hope is that we get some new music from him or a collection of standards that will once again raise the public awareness about his sound very soon. A larger scale tour of major markets would also be nice and I had to say that after tonight I would come back to a show in a heartbeat. Thanks Michael Monroe for all of your contributions to Rock and Roll and for showing us that you still shine like a star.
The Dirty Pearls Set List:
1. Happy New Year
3. NYC Is A Drug
6. Hollywood La La La (Icarus)
8. Like It
Michael Monroe Set List:
1. Nothin’s Alright
3. Hammersmith Palais
4. You’re Next
5. Not Fakin’ It
7. Another Night In The Sun
8. I Wanna Be Loved
9. Boulevard Of Broken Dreams
10. Love Song
11. Machine Gun Etiquette
12. Motorheaded For A Fall
13. Back To Mystery City
15. Malibu Beach Nightmare
16. Dead, Jail or Rock ‘n’ Roll
17. Ain’t Nothin’ To Do
18. Taxi Driver
19. I Feel Alright
I wandered around the Highline Ballroom to try and capture some other interesting visuals for you readers and one thing that I love to do is snap some images of the merch tables since there is always something cool going on with them. First up is the small section of the tables occupied by The Last Vegas.
The ever valuable for band promotion t-shirt was available and the large clear strongbox had a healthy amount of band logo buttons for the fans. Of course the bands CD “Whatever Gets You Off” and some posters and stickers were on hand for good measure and something I didn’t expect to see – a sign up book for the band’s mailing list. These days one thinks that all of this stuff is better monitored online, but if it works for them great.
The Dirty Pearls are by no means advocating drug abuse, but the shirt denotes one of the bands signature tunes.
Mr. Monroe had a nice t-shirt for sale at the show & some cool other trinkets which you can see in the next photo.
Buttons, lanyards, patches and more but not one note of music was available at the show. That’s largely because Michael’s music is not that easily found on this side of the Atlantic. Are you listening to that statement record companies of America? Let’s get something happening over here. Oh and check this out my fiends….
There was a dude directly in front of me that my friend pointed out (he is a big KISS fan as well) and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw an official, and very vintage Vinnie Vincent Invasion shirt. I just had to snap a photo of it since I had seen this actual tour which was not too long after the guitar player had left KISS. I have not seen one of his shirts being worn in a long, long time. I shot the rear side of the t first since it had the photo of Vinnie.
Vinnie’s stuff was interesting and the band that he formed would eventually become Slaughter (go figure). If you can find any of his first two albums, they are worth looking into for their time period and view of Metal at that particular point in its history.