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Mike Tramp - Black Heart, London (UK) - 10 April 2019

There was no support tonight as Mike Tramp had planned a long set for the town that kicked it all off for White Lionin the UK in 1987 at the Marquee (at which I was privileged to attend as a teenager). He is keenly aware of his heritage and early fans will not have been disappointed as there was plenty of White Lion and Freak Of Nature in the set, but he does this now very much on his own terms in a way that he is comfortable with and staying true to himself.


Mike Tramp London 1

It wasn't too long into the set before he did 'Little Fighter' and while there's no doubt it is a different experience from thirty years ago, it's the same distinctive tone and timbre and just as enthusiastically received by this crowd tonight. He was keen to point out he has done more solo albums than White Lion albums now, in pursuit of his dream of folky-style songs in the style of his heroes Dylan, Springsteen and Petty. Amusingly he told of how he tried to get this into his work with Vito Bratta, although inevitably as the main guitar player Vito's style won out. These days there are no widdly-widdly solos, but songs like 'Hungry', stripped back as they are, take on a new emotional dimension in which you can see what the songs are really about. Although he made light of the sexual content in the song (having declared he never wanted to put the X in Sex like Kiss), telling a story about an emergency explanation that it was about space exploration to a surprise query from his ten year old son to avoid a rude awakening.

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One of the pleasures of these unplugged gigs is all the stories, such as how Mike as the singer having to look after himself in the White Lion days used to go to bed early, but when he took his brother on tour he would often find the next day he had to pick his brother up from the police station, or deal with an angry husband as his brother had the same long blonde hair as he did. This was the amusing side before Mike delved into the serious side of having a troubled brother who flirted with hard drugs with the Freak Of Nature song 'Need', which got whoops from the crowd upon announcement. We also heard about dealing with losing everything and how 'Homesick' is a lament for a lost world of record stores and old-fashioned values. Mike has always been good at communicating pain and he almost made me cry in 'No Closure', a personal song about family estrangement. Half-joking, he said that people on the Hair Metal Cruise had said he was a bit of a Sinead O'Connor bringing the party mood down, in fact Mike is a super optimist as a lot of his solo songs such as 'Trust In Yourself' are about not giving up, and the theme of the new album 'Stray From The Flock' is, of course, about self-belief and sticking to your guns even if it means striking out on your own.


Mike Tramp London 2

Songs that made the crowd smile included 'Tell Me', and new for this tour seemed to be soundtracks of drums and, in this case, tambourine to give the solo show a little percussive kick. Die-hard White Lion fans got their versions of 'When The Children Cry' and 'Wait', although Mike was at pains to say he and Vito are good friends now because they have agreed to be remembered as White Lion as they were and not to pursue White Lion projects in the future, dashing the hopes of anyone still holding out for a reunion, just before launching into a beautiful version of 'Broken Heart' where the words were crystal clear and you could hear every syllable. After performing 'Lady Of The Valley' he remembered Vito's solo in that song and commented that sometimes he feels like he's up there performing Lord Of The Rings all on his own. He thanked all the crowd for being here when he was not on top and for all the support throughout the years, before leaving with White Lion's 'Farewell To You'.

One thing is for sure and that's seeing Mike Tramp is every bit as emotionally fulfilling as seeing White Lion thirty years ago, and I have done both. What is more valuable now is that every time I leave a Mike Tramp show now I feel I have got to know Tramp the man a bit better, and I have remembered all over again what is means to have a sincere performance with emotional integrity to help you to truly feel.

Review and photos by Dawn Osborne


Mike Tramp London 3

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