View From The Merch Stand: Four Nights On The Road With Michael Monroe Print E-mail
Written by Dom Daley   
Sunday, 24 December 2017 04:40

It's only rock ‘n’ roll, but I like it... No, I fuckin' loves it. 


I got asked a while ago if I fancied doing merch duties on the short but sweet UK trek of the Michael Monroe band and Role Models… seeing as they are two of my favourite bands, I thought for a nanosecond and started packing ready for the dates.  It was only to be a short four dates from Manchester to Trecco Bay - hardly the epic endurance tour many undertake - but it was going to be four nights of watching Michael Monroe from a position of privilege that hardly any fans ever get to see:  soundchecks… backstage… ah, I won't bore you but my spare pants were packed weeks before I set off on this winter trip. I didn't need Santa, or any naughty or nice list: I've won the rock n roll lottery and two of my favourite bands night after night was going to be a treat.  


Michael Monroe 2018 tour poster


Day One


Manchester was the first stop and Rebellion Club was the place to be.  After I'd set up the pop up shop and got me float it was all systems go as the doors opened and the excited punters rolled in to witness what was to be one hell of a show from two superb bands. 


Rags, having managed to fuck up some plate juggling the previous weekend, was sporting a rather fetching ring finger bandage – but, as luck would have it, it was on his picking/strumming hand so, with a little practice, it wasn't going to be a problem. With the now bursting at the seams audience in place, the rock ‘n’ roll began. In no time at all the Role Models had the audience well and truly warmed up.  The band had a fantastically warm reception, with many already being familiar with most of the songs, and the half hour set flew by. 


With a slick and quick turnaround it was the turn of the headliners, Michael Monroe, to kick out the jams, and in no time at all 'Nothings Alright' sounded like the band weren't in the mood to ease gently into the set, but were intent on going for it from the off. Manchester was being treated to old and new songs from the glittering repertoire of Monroe's solo career, before any signs of an encore.  Going for the jugular from the off would leave many bands struggling after a few songs, but not this combo.  Rich Jones and Steve Conte were on fire, and Sami Yaffa is never short of stunning in his style and application: it was a devastating set, punctuated by the anvil pounding of Mr Rockfist.


Onto the tricky business of what Hanoi songs will make it into the set.  Fear not folks because, with the anniversaries of Razzle’s birth and death upon us, it was 'Two Steps From The Move' that got the nod and the entire first side of the album was played, much to the obvious delights of the capacity crowd that was eating out of the palm of Monroe's hand.  As he prowled the stage looking for vantage points to climb - he walked across the bar and over the PA - the energy from the audience was fuelling the band on, and vice versa. This almost two-hour set was most unexpected and, considering it was the opening night, had they peaked? Surely, this couldn't get better? Boy, was I feeling lucky. Could they possibly top this on the nights that followed?  From my vantage point at the merch table, I got instant feedback and it seems I saw it the same as everybody else. 


Manchester might well be the northern powerhouse, and tonight they proved they had the appetite for some loud punk rock and fucking roll. I never doubted the good people of Manchester - they know their rock ‘n’ roll and did themselves proud.  


As the fans filed out into the cold winter air, the bands sat back and caught their breath after a job well done and a memorable night of entertainment was well and truly delivered.


One down - three to go… London, let’s be having you!


Day Two


Michael Monroe Sami Yaffa


As the circus rolls into town, it’s London’s turn next to get the one-two shuffle and Tufnell Park Dome gets the chance to have its foundations tested.  With a fantastic new light rig and mightily fine PA in-house, The Dome is a much-underused venue on the London circuit in these times of slim pickings of venues to play rock 'n' roll in.  As I look around, the place has changed since I was last in there – which, if memory serves me well, it was the late ‘80s to see Lords Of The New Church… so that shows how underused it is for me anyway. 


Role Models make good use of the soundcheck to start filming for their new video that's in the making, and I comment that the PA sounded exceptional and the band was firing on all cylinders. Tonight had the makings of "one of those nights" on what is regarded as home turf for the band.


Well, I don't want to sound like Nostradamus or one of those smart-arsed so-and-sos, but I was correct - and judging by the reception Role Models got it was indeed shaping up to be a memorable one. 


After soundcheck, and the management of The Dome not seeing the funny side of Michael’s climbing abilities, he promised to refrain from climbing the rig to the top and instead would just climb the PA if he felt inclined to do so.  Ha, how we laughed: how would they stop him anyway?  With a similar set from the previous night, London got the same treatment, but in a much bigger venue, and something of an old-school feel tonight just seemed to edge it over Manchester. Boy, both bands were on form tonight. 


Rags led the band through a great cross-section of songs from all three Role Models albums - and the crowd is lapping it up. 'Lie For Today' kicks things off in determined fashion, then it's straight into 'Saturday Night Sailor'.  The band is really in the groove as '(Broke My Back) Disappointing You' has grown into some huge fuckin' beast.  'New Reason' then, and by the time 'Manette Street' hits the PA Rags has the swelling Dome audience in the palm of his battered and bruised hand. 'Wizard Van' is most welcome and tight as fuck, then its 'Radio' that keeps up the tempo. The thrill of seeing a support band go down this well is a testament to the songs and performance of this most excellent of bands.  By the time they reach 'This Eventually Leads Nowhere', I'm a bit gutted that this has to stop - if only every support band had a catalogue of songs like this. Rags’ daughter gets a shout out and the Dome duly obliges in her birthday greeting this was indeed turning into a special night, which meant that there was only time for the final song, 'This Eventually Leads Nowhere', which has never sounded so majestic. 


I’m always get excited hearing those ‘Demolition 23’ songs: that's the point of rock ‘n’ roll, isn't it? It’s meant to be exciting and dangerous.  'Nothings Alright' really sets the tempo of any rock ‘n’ roll show, and tonight was no exception.  Tonight, Rich Jones and Steve Conte traded solos and licks like they were joined at the hip, and with the exceptional rhythm section that is Sami Yaffa and Karl Rockfist this really is a luxury machine: through all the line-up changes, this one just seems to work best and there can't have been one single person leaving that hall thinking they were short-changed or complaining about the setlist, because tonight there were exceptional performances by both bands who deserve so much more.


Day Three


After the early morning fiasco of power outs on the rail network, it was on a Virgin train back up to the Midlands as tonight it was Birmingham's turn to rock and fucking roll. It also was to be the last night of duty for Role Models, who had impressed on the previous shows and were determined to show Birmingham what they had in their locker, being a virgin city for the band, who hadn't managed to play here before. 


Tonight it seemed there was an early curfew that threw a number of people with the start times - me included as I set up the pop-up shop at the back of the hall and watched the night unfold as people started to flow through the doors and head straight for the front. It was a good opportunity for Role Models to shoot some more footage for the video during sound check – but, before we knew it, it was time: Rags and the boys were back onstage and entertained the crowd with stories of meeting Sami Yaffa whilst they lived on the same street in New York. It was cool to see how a new city took to the band: straight from the off the audience seemed to be discovering the band and giving them such a warm reception - and hopefully taking note for the next time they roll through town. 


You hear bands say about getting into their stride: well, by day three these guys were really cooking; the sound of the songs was effortless, as they knocked 'Manette Street' out of the park once again, and by the time 'Radio' played out they had the respect of this audience, who had gotten right into what Role Models were all about. The musical heritage of this city wasn't lost on Role Models as they doffed the cap by spontaneously breaking into the first verse of 'Breaking The Law' - and the birthplace of heavy metal opened its arms to these finely tuned punked up power-poppers. Too soon, it was that time of the night again where Rags introduced the final song of the night, and again dedicated it to his son, Zoli, who helped write the lyrics for such a fine song; he also dedicated it to those who face the challenge of daily life with autism and face that challenge we all do through a very different set of eyes and rules, but do so with a smile and determination many of us so-called “regular” people could never muster.  It's fitting that such a great song gets such a heartfelt introduction and is fully appreciated by another audience of people who just get it!  


Without fancy lights, and a tight stage, it would be a minimal fuss turn round and in less than 30 minutes those Monroe boys would hit the stage and hit it hard. If the last two nights were any indication of how it was going to go, then Birmingham was in for a treat it probably hadn't witnessed since the heady nights at the Hummingbird when Hanoi Rocks were in full flight many, many moons ago. It was again opened with 'Nothings Alright' and then the band flew straight into 'Got Blood', which was ferocious.  Older classics like 'Dead Jail Or Rock N Roll' rubbed shoulders alongside newer songs like 'One Foot Outta The Grave' and 'Ballad Of The Lower East Side'. 


It was when they reached the midpoint tonight and Michael informed the already well-informed audience of the significance of these dates and one Nicholas 'Razzle' Dingley, did Steve begin picking the familiar chords of 'Don't You Ever Leave Me'… I shut my eyes and the moment took me to another place that had the hairs on my arms standing up whilst Michael blew his blues harp: through the dry ice I could see the cool figure of Sami Yaffa swaying in the moment - and nothing else mattered; this was an awesome band playing an awesome song to an awesome dude’s memory, and glasses were raised to celebrate his birthday, and not for the loss but as a celebration for the time the band had with him and the music he helped create. This was emotional and fuckin' truly awesome damn Hanoi Rocks were the greatest.


It seemed I wasn't alone, and the riff of 'High School' helped brush away any tears; it was amazing to hear such classics getting a brand new breath of life with this band who absolutely nailed it again! Birmingham was now also being treated to side one of 'Two Steps…', and I felt privileged to once again be present on this tour. To cap off another spectacular night they ended with their take on 'I Wanna Be Loved': Johnny would have been proud. 


It seemed early so me 'n' the Role Models enjoyed some drinks at the bar to toast thoroughly enjoyable few nights of rock ‘n ’roll - and the only regret was it wasn't more dates across the UK and a chance to entertain more people in equally cool places as the last few nights.


So, as the pubs hadn't even thrown people out and I was in the back of a taxi heading back to my wonderful no star hotel ready for the final leg of this short tour and the delights of Trecco Bay Holiday Park for the headline set, again at the weirdly early hour of 9 pm. 


Day Four


Michael Monroe Planet Rockstock


I could get used to this, as I jump into the back of a taxi and whisk myself off to join the delights of Crossrail as I head back into the bosom of South Wales and see what the delights of Planet Rockstock has in store for me.  This was a night off merch duties, so I join the audience, after skilfully managing to avoid any of the other bands on this bill, as there was only one show in town for me - and that was Michael Monroe and his band of merry men, who were really firing on all cylinders now before they flew to Japan and some dates there.


In fairness to the Rockstock audience, they got straight into the punk rockin’ fury on offer: there would be no elongated solos or prog workouts - it was the best hour of the Monroe set condensed down. All around seemed to appreciate '78' and couldn't believe the level of showmanship as Michael climbed the monitors and then the PA cabs to get a better look at the audience as the band kicked up one hell of a punk rock ‘n’ roll shitstorm on the stage. 


Michael was suffering from a sore throat but he wasn't holding back or making any excuses, as 100 per cent was offered up as per usual. 'This Ain't No Love Song' followed, then the band set to cruise control, as the audience was actually seen waving lighters for 'Going Down With The Ship' as some took a breather before heading into the home straight.  'Hammersmith Palais' was bruising and, as if the set hadn't been high octane enough, 'Malibu Beach' seemed like it reminded a lot of the audience who and what they were watching… and it was now too late as 'Up Around The Bend' was like a kick to the head. Before they could all join in for the sing-a-long their time was almost over, and it was only 'Dead Jail Or Rock N Roll' before they rode out of the Park with the trophy of the finest band ever to play Planet Rockstock: jaws were being scraped up all over the arena floor as the coolest dudes were on that tour bus heading for the land of the rising sun where some other lucky punters would have the pleasure I just had for the best part of a week. 


Always a pleasure and never a chore… same time next year? Gents, it’s been emotional. That most certainly rocked like fuck! 


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