Crimespree on music: Michael Monroe live St. Paul Oct 09, 2011

Anyone that knows me in real life, or is a Facebook friend, is likely aware of some mild anticipation I have been expressing about Michael Monroe playing St. Paul. The news of his planned performance pleased me somewhat and I may have, on occasion, showed it.

Ok, I squealed like a little girl and posted a ton of videos on Facebook. I am a pretty big fan of both Michael’s solo career as well as his bands Demolition 23 and Hanoi Rocks.

Last night, Michael played the Twin Cities for the first time in 25 years at Station 4. The crowd was decent sized  (especially for a Sunday night) and ranged from older, recovering punks and 80s rockers to some that were young enough to my chil…younger siblings.

Watching Michael on stage is like watching a blend between early Mick Jagger and Iggy Pop. In all honesty, I can’t think of another frontman that works the stage as well as he. He covers the entire stage, as well as climbing onto the speakers (which he apparently was told not to do) and even into the front of the crowd.  The mic stand was rarely stationary and old-school mics with cords were often flying through the air like just another toy to play with. Nothing seemed rehearsed and Michael’s frequent grins made it clear he was having a blast.

The band consists of Michael’s former Hanoi Rocks mate Sami Yaffa on the bass, Dregen (The Backyard Babies) and Steve Conte (Company of Wolves, The New York Dolls) on guitars and Karl Rosqvist (The Chelsea Smiles, Danzig) on drums. The boys were  tight, sounding like an actual band and not just hired guns backing up a singer. They played off of one another with the ease of a crew that has played together for years. Conte’s lead work was sharp and full of fire, while Dregen prowled the stage like a man possessed.

The set was a mix of Michael’s solo stuff (Not Fakin’ It, Dead, Jail or Rock n Roll), Hanoi Rocks (Mystery City, Malibu Beach, Taxi Driver, Motorvatin’) and Demolition 23 (Nothin’s Alright, Dysfunctional, Hammersmith Palais) as well as songs from his new album (78, Trick of the Wrist, Bombs Away, among others). Both old and new were filled with energy and passion. Too many bands today have had their most creative years behind them, but MM’s new songs are every bit as vibrant and relevant as the ones from Hanoi Rocks.

Some of the listings, in local rags or websites, contained cutesy stuff like “Michael Monroe put the hair spray in hard rock” and “take a stroll back to the days of hair metal.” While his hugely influential band Hanoi Rocks had a glam look that was imitated by all of the L.A. Scene in the early 80s, the music was always hard-edged with a hint of punk.  Michael’s later music (both solo and the killer one-off band Demolition 23) drew heavily from bands like The Stooges. Nazareth and the New York Dolls.

In the last 28 years, I have seen hundreds of shows that included killer performances by Ozzy, Eric Clapton, Bad Brains, Pearl Jam and Van Halen; this ranks up there as one of the best I have ever seen. Off the top of my head, I could not name one that topped it. Loaded with passion and energy, Michael and company deliver the goods with a raw fury that is sadly lacking today.

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