Former White Lion and Freak of Nature singer Mike Tramp has been something of a rock n roll troubadour over the last few years, regularly touring the length and breadth of the UK armed only with an acoustic guitar case and a fund of anecdotes from 30 years in music.
However on this current tour, for the first time in many years he has reverted to an electric set up with a young Danish trio Lucer, who also provided support and have a pair of twins in singer/bassist Lasse and guitarist Anders Bogemark. Sadly the turnout for his London show in the upstairs room of Camden pub The Black Heart was again a low one, not even in three figures, yet somehow only enhanced the intimate atmosphere.
The new band opened with a couple of White Lion favourites in ‘Hungry’ and ‘Living On The Edge’, but as regular Tramp watchers will know, he has a somewhat ambivalent relationship with the East Coast band who propelled this Danish expatriate to stardom.
For one thing the songs sound quite different with his voice adapting over the years to a lower register with less of the vocal range of yore, and stripped of the guitar pyrotechnics of Vito Bratta, though Anders, looking as if he could be a third Gallagher brother in his mod style haircut and polo shirt, had a great traditional feel to his restrained but melodic guitar playing.
The other is a recurring theme in his between song stories of the way this thoughtful singer-songwriter with his global peace and environmental concerns managed to be absorbed by commercial pressures and unfairly pigeonholed into what we now know as the hair metal movement.
Nowadays at 54 he seems to have made peace with himself, but a major part of the show is anecdotes about the eighties, almost acting as a cautionary tale about the perils of fame and how hard it is to remain true to yourself in the music business.
Indeed there was rather a lot of chat, but in the hands of such a skilled raconteur who riffed on a lot of subjects from rock history, to his ageing fanbase and how a woman who caught his eye proved to be the young twins’ mother, to giving his boy band obsessed daughter some home truths, it added to the charm of the show which was part gig and part ‘an evening with’. With the set time well over 2 hours it was hard to feel short changed by this patter.
Though Freak of Nature material was absent, the set mixed some old White Lion favourites such as ‘Tell Me’ (complete with singalong) and one of the songs he was most proud of in ‘Little Fighter’, with material from his more personal recent solo albums.
‘High Like A Mountain’ and, later in the set ‘Wait Till Forever’ were impressive and a factor in me deciding to buy a signed copy of his new ‘Nomad’ CD after the show, while ‘Cobblestone Street’ was classic singer songwriter material, looking back on formative years with nostalgia.
While a theme of the evening was how he was much happier placing artistic integrity and a low key solo career over fame and fortune, he did reveal they had made a video for a new song ‘Give It All You Got’; which was sparky and more upbeat than most of his solo material, certainly than the dark ‘Better Off’ from his first solo album ‘Capricorn’.
After people sang along to some White Lion classics in the ballad ‘When The Children Cry’ (a US top 3 single, lest we forget) and ‘Broken Heart’, after thanking band and crowd effusively he ended with one of my favourite solo songs of his in ‘ More To Life Than This’.
Unexpectedly part of Thin Lizzy’s ‘The Sun Goes Down’ was inserted into the song, then when he came back for an off setlist encore he reminded us that he carried Phil Lynott’s spirit with him (not to mention in tattoo form) and played a superb version of ‘Southbound’ which was only missing a second guitar, before cheerfully hanging round with loyal fans after the show.
Marching to the beat of his own drum, Mike Tramp seems all the happier for it and I hope that with this promising new band he continues these intimate UK shows and that they become successful in the mould of those of his contemporary Kip Winger.
Review and Photos by Andy Nathan
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Power Plays w/c 16 September (Mon-Fri)
BLOCK BUSTER Losing Gravity (Frontiers)
WATCH ME BREATHE Don’t Think I Haven’t Thought About It (The Label Group/INGrooves)
FIRES OF FREYA Take A Bow (indie)
BLACK STAR RIDERS Underneath The Afterglow (Nuclear Blast)
STOMPIN’ HEAT Shiny Curly Red Hair (indie)
Featured Albums w/c 16 September (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 THE DEFIANTS Zokusho (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 CORELEONI II (AFM Records)
14:00-16:00 TONY McLOUGHLIN True Native (Fuego)
Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)
BAD COMPANY Company Of Strangers (1995)
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