I love rock 'n' roll, I do. Sometimes I feel like I've sold my soul to Beelzebub in exchange for some great rock 'n' roll music and, when it's this good, then I guess I got the best of the deal, sorry Lucifer old bean. Sure rock 'n' roll isn't rocket science, it's not meant to be complicated either, but it is emotional, it is passion. I love the feeling you get when a band and a song can take you somewhere that nothing else can even come close to taking you. It can make you forget life's woes, it can be dangerous, exciting, exhilarating and breathtaking. On occasions there is nothing on this earth that can touch it.
It seems right and fitting that Über Röck are present for this performance. You see, we have values and taste and, whilst we might not be up there playing the instruments, we are singing from the same hymn sheet as Michael Monroe, Ginger, Sami, Steve and Karl; their influences are our influences, their songs are our songs and their values are our values. Thank God for bands like this because they make writing about music such a privilege, an honour even. Sometimes life it just so fucking good!
One of the most eagerly anticipated gigs of the year so far sees Michael Monroe assemble what can only be described as a dream line-up; Ok, so one legend leaves which opens the door for another (and then another) but the replacements seem to be like an act of God, fitting perfectly and, on tonight's performance, it seemed obvious that Steve Conte was tailor made for this line-up. With one part Wildheart, one part Royal Highness and two parts New York Dolls, what you have is quite simply the most exciting punk rock 'n' roll five piece currently treading the boards - bar none!!!
Don't take this lightly when I say it; of the hundreds of gigs I've been to over the years this was one of those nights where I can say "I was there." I can boast that I've seen a lot of the best gigs by rock gods and legends of the industry - from Guns N' Roses in a club before they had a deal with Geffen, Keith Richards playing a club, Hanoi Rocks and Johnny Thunders, Stiv Bators sacking the rest of the Lords Of The New Church from the stage, the Ramones classic line-up, the Damned teaparty, to Iggy Pop ripping it up with Andy McCoy on the 'Instinct' tour. I was also there to see Johnny Thunders play his last ever gig in London before his untimely death as well as Arthur 'Killer' Kane playing on stage with the Dolls just weeks before his premature departure from planet earth to name but a few of those special moments. There were some I missed (because I'm not that old) like The Clash or the Pistols on the 'Anarchy' tour or Bowie doing Ziggy however, you'd think after all these years one might become a little jaded and sceptical having seen such highs and lows of real rock 'n' roll but no, I still get excited, I still get 'That' feeling. On the rare occasion when you feel it in your guts, the anticipation that a band of musicians can make you feel, a way that most people wouldn't understand or would think you're insane when you describe what you've witnessed. Well folks, it happened again as I stood amongst the other 'golden ticket' holders who were about to be blown away by the pure energy, craft, passion and brilliant showmanship that was about to be unleashed upon us at the Academy.
Fuck the lack of coverage from the trendy music press. Fuck the early curfew of modern day venues and fuck the non-believers who fake it every time they strap on a guitar or pick up a microphone. Tonight was all about 'That' feeling. The anticipation before showtime was like christmas as a kid, hoping and praying it was going to be everything you wanted it to be. You might think I'm bigging this up into something it can never be but, believe me, this band will annihilate everything that follows them and quite simply if I go to a better gig this year it could only be that Michael Monroe and band has decided to do some more dates in the UK.
As the house lights go down and the dry ice flows, the intro tape begins as a rammed Academy holds its collective breath as Ginger, Sami, Steve and Karl take their places on the stage. Mr Rockfist lays into the drum beat that tells us 'Nothin's Alright' has begun and the place is jumping like a cat on a hot tin roof. The MC and ring master supreme takes to the centre stage and proceeds to mesmerize and hypnotize the crowd before he climbs the amps for the first time this evening, throws himself around, swings his mic as he rips into song after song of the best of the best; we get a good smattering of solo material, Demolition 23 and Hanoi tracks and covers of the creme de la creme of punked up rock 'n' roll.
Without a chance to catch breath Sam Yaffa is pounding out the bassline of 'Motorvatin' before a very apt 'Hammersmith Palais' is knocked out with a ferocity that proved that this is a band that means business and any doubt that they might not work or is a bit of a nostalgia trip between day jobs is well and truly blown away. Next up they showcase the first of a trio of new tracks called 'You're Next', the crowd salivating at what is happening before them. 'Another Night In The Sun' and 'Motorheading For A Fall' being the other two new songs aired tonight.
A grinning Ginger is stood to the right of the stage and appears to be totally immersed in what he's doing as he pulls some shapes and looks like he was enjoying the freedom of just cutting loose and playing his guitar in this mightily impressive band as he swapped smiles and shares backing vocals with bass legend Yaffa, who also looked resplendent in his shirt and tie whilst beating his Fender bass to within an inch of its life. What a backbone Yaffa is to the music, never overplaying yet always noticeable which enabled the mightily impressive Steve Conte and Ginger to throw out the riffs and licks with a confidence and attitude rarely seen these days. Yaffa and Rockfist are the glue that holds the band together (is there a better bass player out there at the moment?).
As good as the band is tonight, the limelight belongs to Monroe who sounds rejuvenated, his voice strong from the first verse to the last "Thank you, goodnight and rock like fuck." He has the audience in the palm of his hand as he belts out a collection of songs that cover some of the best bands ever. An immaculate choice of covers it was too, We had 'Love Song' and 'Machine Gun Etiquette' from The Damned, 'I Wanna Be Loved' from L.A.M.F. dedicated to the late greats Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan, 'Aint Nothing To Do' For Stiv Bators and then for the encore we were treated to a stunning cover of 'Endangered Species' by the UK Subs as the evergreen Charlie Harper joined the band on stage to handle vocals alongside Monroe which seemed fitting and right that he be up there. The night was brought to a show-stopping end with Monroe climbing the rafters and singing to the balcony like some leather trousered Spider-man as the band belted out the Stooges classic 'I Feel Alright', then all too early the house lights went up as the beaming audience was shown the door. The future is in safe hands people, punk rock 'n' roll is not a spent force! Whilst the insipid procession of wannabe bands go about their 15 minutes of fame and we wade knee deep in shit music, this band was and is the real deal; this was no nostalgia trip or punk rock jukebox, this band quite simply 'Rocked Like Fuck!' with a level of showmanship and quality rarely seen these days.
The Dictators once sang "Who will save rock 'n' roll?" Well it's ok boys and girls, I'll answer that. The future of rock 'n' roll is in safe hands and they just played in London Town! Michael Monroe, Steve Conte, Ginger, Sami Yaffa and Karl Rockfist are the saviours of rock 'n' roll, just ask anyone present at the Islington Academy on the night of the 9th of April 2010.
Dismiss this review as some old git harping on about yesterday's men or 'just another band' at your peril. If you ignore this band then you are most certainly the enemy of music, real music, punk rock 'n' roll music and I pity you because bands this good are a rare commodity. Sure there are good bands out there but this band are not just good, they're great! The mundane humdrum of life for us mere mortals is worth living. I feel privileged to have been there in the presence of such greatness! Rock Like Fuck? Didn't they just!!!!
Photo kudos to Raquel F