Michael Monroe must have a portrait tucked away in his attic, the Finnish frontman having seemingly not aged for decades and is as lithe and vital as he always has been. From those chaotic early days with Hanoi Rocks through to now, he has always embodied that rock ‘n’ roll spirit of danger and unpredictability mixed with glam. The cosmic love child of Bowie and Jagger, the singer never seems to put less than his all into every performance, one which this night, at Norwich UEA, caused the security some nervous moments.
UEA, Norwich – 15 February 2023
Photography: Steve Ritchie
Words: Paul Monkhouse
Super-fast and raw, One Man Gang saw Monroe run on stage, waving a paper fan in front of his face before throwing it into the audience and launching into the first verse. By the time he reached the anthemic chorus, all eyes were glued on him.
With The Stones meets The Stooges on steroids of I Live Too Fast To Die Young, seeing him flinging around his microphone stand with his scarf, it is obvious that this man has pure rock star DNA running through his veins.
Equally as adrenaline-fuelled as the Bastard Sons who went before him, this was a different kind of rock ‘n’ roll, one that gloried in flashing razorblades, wanton sex and glittering mirrorballs.
Last Train To Tokyo was a bubblegum punk triumph, and fireball-spitting new track Murder The Summer Of Love showed that, despite a career four decades long, Monroe had lost none of the hellraising intent he had first displayed in the clubs of Helsinki.
There was an air of sneering defiance throughout the band, the quartet with Monroe dressed to kill as the meanest and toughest band on the block, ready to ruck at any moment whilst the singer got on to tease and cajole the crowd.
Full of blindly reckless fervour, the singer scaled the PA for Ballad Of The L.E.S., sitting high atop the speakers as he lost himself in the sheer moment, and you have to feel a wince of sympathy for his insurance company as he risks life and limb every night to entertain.
This was just one of the many moments during the set that a palpable air of walking a tightrope set hearts racing, the solidly carefree and wild music acting as the soundtrack.
Hanoi Rocks classic Malibu Beach sounded as vibrant as ever, Monroe’s sax playing adding flashes of exotica and the cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Up Around The Bend still manages to make blood surge and bodies move, the audience lustily joining in with the chorus.
With one final run through of Dead, Jail Or Rock ‘n’ Roll, Monroe holding his microphone into the audience, it was all over, a breathless audience allowed to cool down after one of the most blistering performances these four walls have seen in many years.
Given the levels on energy onstage, this MetalTalk scribe can honestly say he’s not witnessed such a display of feral and unchained rock ‘n’ roll passion since Iggy Pop tore up this very venue some three decades or so before.
One of the princes of his art, Michael Monroe, is truly a force of nature.