Friday, February 19, 2016

Michael Monroe at the Gramercy Theatre

Michael Monroe & Steve Conte
Matti "Makke" Fagerholm, better known by his stage name, Michael Monroe, was born in Helsinki, Finland. Inspired by the emerging glam and punk scene in the 1970s, Monroe played in a band called Madness. While rehearsing in Töölö, Monroe met guitarist Andy McCoy (then known as Antti Hulkko), as McCoy's band, Briard, was rehearsing in the same basement. Later, Monroe and McCoy played together for a short time in a band called Bolin. Monroe then played saxophone in Maukka Perusjätkä's band. McCoy conceived the concept of a glam rock band called Hanoi Rocks, but gave the idea to Monroe, as McCoy was playing in the punk band Pelle Miljoona Oy. Monroe launched Hanoi Rocks in 1979, McCoy joined in 1980, and in 1982 the band relocated to London, England. Hanoi Rocks became an influential band, recorded nine studio albums, but broke up and reunited several times, never achieving mainstream success. Monroe moved to New York City in 1985, began a solo career in 1987, and in the 1990s formed two short-lived all-star bands, Jerusalem Slim and Demolition 23. Monroe's 10th and most recent solo album, Blackout States, was released on October 16, 2015.

Still looking like a glam rocker in mascara and a custom-made rock star wardrobe, 53-year-old Monroe revived hard 1980s-styled rock and roll tonight at the Gramercy Theatre. Entering to the theme of Sérgio Mendes' "Fanfarra," Monroe and company began the set with the blazing "This Ain't No Love Song." Monroe made great use of the spotlight throughout the set, playing to the edge of the stage, twirling his microphone and stand as if they were stage props, breaking into several James Brown-type splits, and jumping off the stage to the audience barrier and extending himself into the fans. None of this showboating took away from the stunning abilities of his cracker jack band, comprised of guitarists Steve Conte and Rich Jones, long-time bassist Sami Yaffa and drummer Karl Rockfist. The set consisted of Monroe' solo catalogue and songs from his days with Hanoi Rocks and Demotion 23. The set also included covers of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Up Around the Bend," the Damned's "Love Song" and "Machine Gun Etiquette," the Dead Boys' "Ain't Nothin' to Do," and the Heartbreakers' "I Wanna Be Loved," which morphed into an extended blues harmonica jam. This was pure, raucous rock and roll, the way it was always meant to sound.

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