Review by Gary Spiller for MPM
The music industry is overflowing with notable partnerships through its history, Lennon & McCartney or Jagger & Richards for instance.
Perhaps on a slightly different plane but nonetheless an important one at the grassroots level is the alliance, in South Wales, between The Patriot and Big Day Pro Live. Venue and promoter in a healthful alliance with both parties bring most palatable offerings to the table.
This evening, continuing the rich vein of ‘top dollar’ billings, former White Lion vocalist Mike Tramp follows in the recent footsteps of the likes of Tygers of Pan Tang, GUN, Chris Holmes, and Ginger Wildheart that lead through the door of The Patriot. Alongside him he brings the silky six-string talents of his Freak of Nature, post-White Lion, sidekick Marcus Nand.
Speaking to this evening’s guest Casey Maunder, following a quality eight track romp, I discover that my geographical assessment to where this smartly tattooed rocker is from was embarrassingly incorrect. Massively so, turns out I couldn’t have been much further away from his Swansea base!
Anyhow I’m suitably impressed and with half of the set based around his debut album ‘Until Your Heart Stops Beating’ I can comfortably recommend this long-player. Casting anchor with the rip-roaring ‘Set Yourself On Fire’ ensures the already healthily sized Sunday evening crowd are snared inside a solitary track. A truly memorable chorus given a heavied-up Bryan Adams alloyed with Thunder workover scorches. Sagely Casey notes “Life is for living!”
Written about the nights spent at Swansea’s The Coach House venue ‘Rolling At The Rathouse’ cuts a muscular figure with its hard-driving delivery. In the vocals there’s a touch of Geddy Lee (much higher up the scale mind you) crossed with John Parr; it’s an unusual combo but it works so well. It’s pretty apparent that this likeable chap has a wide-ranging collection of influences and styles. Latest single ‘Superman’s Dead’ follows steeped in antipodean infections; Midnight Oil and Jimmy Barnes emerge glorious from the tangled metal resultant of their head-on collision.
‘Candle In The Jar’ – “The solo single I released in 2021” informs Casey adding “[It’s] about a guy who lives on a very short leash” – captivates with consummate ease. The smiles, on stage, are wide and rightly so. Halfway into their set and the gathering inside this fabled venue are right onside.
Musician and fan in equal measure Casey forewarns “We’re gonna be in the front with yas for Mike! He sounded great in soundcheck!” furthering and chuckling “[We’re] Gonna be muscling you out of the way!” The stampede that is ‘Foolish And The Dead’ enthrals and draws you closer with a blessing of Kiss combined with Rose Tattoo. It’s foot to the floor yet somehow nimble too.
Penned by Maunder with the divisions of post-Brexit in mind ‘If The World Was Torn In Two’ concludes discussions as to how the offspring of The Manics and The Wildhearts would rock out. Three minutes of pure foot-pumping delight that despatches angst in a fevered manner. There’s a second album in the offing for next year and the ascendancies of ‘Bruises And Blood’ serve notice with feelings laid bare cosying up to raw emotions.
A sideways slanting poke at social media ‘Click Me, Swipe Me, Follow Me, Like Me’ rings so very true in these screen-orientated days. I’m taken back to ’93 and The Wildhearts’ ‘News of the World” reverberates with its lyric “Pseudo-heroes masturbating our egos” providing a crossover conduit being suitably applicable 30 years on and in a different realm.
An instantly likeable Maunder can certainly scribe a mean son of a gun tune! The eight dished up here this evening each have their own distinct identity. There’s a mash-up of influences for sure in what proves to be an invigorating potent elixir. All I’m left pondering is how long it’s going to be before this is going to be the rock n’ roll of arenas the length and breadth of the country.
It was within one of those aforementioned arenas (Birmingham’s NEC to be exact) that my one and only encounter with Mike Tramp occurred some thirty-plus years ago. Fronting White Lion – the tasty filling in a Motley Crue and Skid Row sandwich – sadly the zenith was approaching with the band’s breakup just a couple of years away.
Since then, Tramp went on to form Freak of Nature (in which he recruited Nand) before embarking upon a solo career interspersed with a lengthy battle to reform White Lion. During the evening Tramp reflected upon this and the indecision created between the two paths, both of which tugged at his soul and heart.
Although it’s been nearly ten years since Tramp announced that there wouldn’t be a White Lion reunion, followers of the band were delighted, earlier this year, with the release, in April, of Tramp’s ‘Songs Of White Lion’ album via Frontiers Music. With this came a ten-date tour of the UK to support the album.
In just under a decade under the burning spotlight White Lion’s ‘classic’ lineup of Tramp, Bratta, LoMenzo and D’Angelo released four albums all of which are featured, naturally, on both Tramp’s album of reprise and the tour’s setlist. It’s a finely curated matter and one which doesn’t waver from the script throughout.
With just Nand and himself coming across to these shores the necessitation of utilising a backing track must be encompassed. It’s done well with no detractions with Tramp explaining that this tour is hopefully the precursor of bringing the full band over in sometime in the future.
The semi-acoustic ‘balladic’ introductory tones of debut single ‘Broken Heart’ – later re-recorded for 1991’s ‘Mane Attraction’ lp – take rightful pride of place; there’s many good memories but clearly for many this is the standout. The track ascends and soars, a salutary tale of what could have been. However, there’s no time for ramifications this evening is one of celebration.
The set opens with three numbers from the US double platinum certified ‘Pride’ – who could forget those piercing ice-cold blue eyes staring from the largely white cover? – Nand striking the unmistakeable notes of ‘Lonely Nights’. There’s an ethereal edge to Tramp’s vocal along with the pinpoint harmonies between Nand and himself.
“There’s bad news” warns Tramp going on to explain “These songs will make you feel old, but it will allow me to feel a bit younger!” The Copenhagen born frontman is in fine jocular form. The roaring beast ‘Hungry’ is timeless, no chronological boundaries are going to cage its energies. Tramp’s vocals, although seemingly a little lower than ‘back in the day’, are opulent and his is a voice to melt the winter’s ice.
Tramp has the crowd eating voraciously from his palm, “You’ve not asked for Tom Jones yet!” he playfully teases. ‘Tell Me’ and its Bryan Adams’ themed fire sees the Patriot ensemble lustily singing along. There’s no doubt that ‘Pride’ holds a special place in Tramp’s heart as later on in the set the pairing of ‘Wait’ and ‘When Children Cry’ – both US billboard top ten smashes – ensure half the album’s ten tracks feature.
The freeway driving of ‘Living On The Edge’ harks back to carefree times; rapturously cheered we ride out into the sunset unified with Poison and Skid Row tagging along for the ride. Unlike the majority of their peers White Lion weren’t afraid to confront political matters. Slick and shiny ‘Cry For Freedom’ was penned about apartheid in South Africa; it’s a tear-jerker passionately despatched by Tramp and Nand.
Cigarette lighters and phone lights illuminate ‘Till Death Do Us Part’ replete with Nand’s eagle upon high conflagrant solo burning even brighter.
Before embarking upon ‘Little Fighter’, the first single from ‘Big Game’, Tramp recounts talking ecological matters at Wembley “I talked about stuff that Vince [Neil] and Seb [Bach] weren’t gonna talk about!” reflecting on quieting an arena he adds “I was 20 years too early for that!” Nonetheless the poignant lyrics resound to the day in the memory of Greenpeace’s vessel Rainbow Warrior sabotaged by French agents in Auckland. There’s an unspoken connection between Nand and Tramp, both synched as they raise their guitars aloft, in respectful tribute, at track end.
‘Love Don’t Come Easy’ is right out of the heartland inhabited by Springsteen and Petty. “I always loved that one, never got to play it” remarks Tramp. The anthemic ‘Wait’ is greeted by a venue of smiling faces as is the gentle reflective strains of ‘When The Children Cry’ – White Lion’s highest charting US single at number 3 – reverberate. Tramp, two-handed, grasps his mic stand for an emotive delivery; nearly 57 million Spotify streams can’t be wrong this is one emotive track.
It had slipped my mind that White Lion had covered Golden Earring’s ‘Radar Love’ on ‘Big Game’ until that instantly recognisable into surges forth. The tonality is slower and darker, but it brings the house down nonetheless, richer for its evolution. ‘Farewell To You’ is a more than apt set-closer – the last track on ‘Mane Attraction’ – it represents the closing of a chapter that promised so very much but ultimately bore fruition not quite at the levels anticipated.
“Holy shit! Thank you so very much!” exclaims Tramp at set-end before finishing “You’re beautiful, hope to see you again very soon.” Let’s hope so Mike, let’s hope so.
Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM