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It’s been about ten years when Michael Monroe last played a solo show in Helsinki.  That’s, of course, because of Hanoi Rocks’ rebirth, which started in 2001. Hanoi Rocks released three successful studio albums before they decided to disband again in 2009 after a series of sold-out shows in Club Tavastia. Unlike his former colleague Andy McCoy, who announced his concise live Real McCoy project almost right away, Michael decided to take to some time before getting back in action.  In January of 2010, Michael announced his new all-star band, which included: Ginger from The Wildhearts, former Hanoi Rocks / Demolition 23 bassist Sam Yaffa, guitarist Todd Youth, and another former Demolition 23 member Jimmy Clarke. This new band first did a handful of successful shows in the USA before heading back to Europe. In late March, the band arrived Finland to play six shows with the renewed line up including New York Dolls guitarist Steve Conte and drummer Karl Rockfist.

The show kicked off with the Demolition 23 track “Nothing’s Alright,” and what a perfect opener that song was! The audience literally went crazy when they finally heard these songs again after such a long ten-year break.  If people went crazy, the band didn’t lose an inch there either. Both guitarists: Ginger and Steve Conte, ran and jumped across and even usually very cool down Sam Yaffa, who also played in Demolition 23, was like a newborn on stage.  Michael, of course, was more than pleased when he was now able to play material he really wanted, and the Demolition 23 album is, as far as I know, one of his favorites of all time.  Michael was full of aggressive energy, in a positive way, but at the same time, he seemed to be a really pleased man.

Hanoi Rocks classic “Motorvatin” also had a good response, and another Demolition 23 track, “Hammersmith Palais,” continued the party before it was time to slow down a bit and concentrate on listening to what Michael had to tell about the track called “You’re Next.”   Michael introduced the song, and I remember he mentioned that it was one of the tracks he had written with Ginger. It’s hard to say much about that song after just one listens, but it did sound pretty much like a mix of The Wildhearts and Demolition 23 material. In brief, it was a straight rock song without any extra tricks or gimmicks there.“Not Fakin’ It” and “Dysfunctional” followed before Michael presented another new song called “Another Night in the Sun.” Again it’s hard to say anything deep after just one listens, but when “You’re Next” was presenting somewhat straightforward material, this one was something completely different. “Another Night in the Sun” was really a melodic hard rock song with a great chorus in the vein of material heard in Michael’s excellent NOT FAKIN IT album.  This was an auspicious song with lots of potentials. The evening’s fourth Demolition 23 track, “I Wanna Be Loved,” originally written by the late Johnny Thunders, was played next before Hanoi Rocks’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” The latter turned out to be one of the highlights of the evening.  For sure, it did bring some great memories for many from last spring when Hanoi Rocks did a series of sold-out farewell shows in the same place.

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“Motorhead for a Fall” was another new track played, but it must be honestly said that it didn’t do anything for me. It was simply a bland song without any good hooks or any reasonable content. Perhaps this song needs some more listens, but this was my honest first impression of that one.  Fortunately, old Hanoi Rocks standards “Tragedy” and “Malibu Beach Nightmare” turned things back to normal, and it gets even better when the band finally hit into Michael’s biggest solo hit so far, “Dead Jail Or Rock ’n Roll.” The band thanked their audience and left the stage just for a minute or two before they “surprisingly” returned and headed directly into evening’s fifth Demolition 23 track: “Ain’t Nothin To Do.”  The song worked well, but it was nothing compared to what happened when Michael announced that original Hanoi Rocks guitarist Nasty Suicide would do a guest appearance on stage! There was pure magic in the air when Nasty walked in and the band headed straight into the old Hanoi classic “Taxi Driver.” This was such a historical event to witness because Michael, Sam, and Nasty haven’t shared a stage since Nasty surprisingly quit with Demolition 23 in 1995. Nasty looked really good and relaxed on stage. He actually started to look like an actual rocker again, so who knows if there’s more to come in the future from him?  “The originals” seemed to have a perfect time on stage together. It was noteworthy that Ginger and Steve willingly gave them more space and stayed more in the background. A hyper-energetic version of The Stooges’ “I Feel Alright” closed the set, and the show was over.

In brief, this was an excellent rock ‘n roll show with all the right elements, but the setlist left a two-part impression… On the one hand, this was such a good list with five Demolition 23 tracks, three new tracks, and six Hanoi Rocks tracks, but…on the other hand, only two songs from Michael’s actual solo albums was way too few. Hopefully, there will be some changes to the list. How about adding at least some of these songs? : “Man With No Eyes,” “Stranded,” “She’s Not An Angel,” “Thrill Me,” “Where’s The Fire Jon,” and “You Crucified Me.” Michael was still in top shape physically, and his vocals were as good as ever. Sam Yaffa did a great performance as well. He clearly enjoyed working with Michael again. Like mentioned earlier, both guitarists did a decent job and gave a great performance, but it must be said that at times I was missing Andy’s lead playing on some old Hanoi stuff. Something was clearly missing on some songs, but apparently, most of the crowd didn’t recognize it as a problem anyway.  It was also strange to see Ginger play such a small role on stage while he’s usually been the man and a center of all attention there. Drummer Karl Rockfist, who’s actually originally born in Finland, played like a drum machine and kept the beat going on strong. Karl was good, but it would still have been interesting to see Jimmy Clarke behind the kit. Three out of four original Demolition 23 members would have amazing to see…

All in all, Michael has proved for everyone that there’s life after Hanoi Rocks. He has a great band (I hope they stick together), great songs, and hopefully better management of what he used to have with Hanoi to get things working properly in the future.




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