Mike Tramp - Black Heart, London (UK) - 8 March 2017
For those who have seen Mike Tramp's solo acoustic show, this was a different deal, with his "band of brothers" as he put, it this was a full-on electric show with long-time partner and producer Soren Anderson on guitar. As such Tramp was complimented and enhanced, the effect being more Classic Rock than Metal, but still with plenty of kick.
As Tramp has made clear in recent interviews, the focus is on his solo work rather than White Lion and this was true for the set. However, he still has a lot of diehard fans there for him personally and they are singing at the front right from the beginning despite the fact the first two numbers 'Better Off' and 'Trust in Yourself' – and the majority of the set – are solo numbers. The White Lion tracks played are definitely appreciated though and the crowd roar back for the first singing opportunity in 'Tell Me', far louder than you'd think possible in a bijoux venue like this!
After that things really get into a sophisticated groove with 'High Like A Mountain', with its slight Funky sound this feels like grown up Rock 'n' Roll with harmonised vocals and a solo delivered with feelin' from Soren. Tramp is clearly into it, twirling and kicking, using every inch he has on the tiny stage. 'Wait Till Forever' has a real chunky bass line, completely different from what you would expect, very modern and fresh, yet still plugged into its Classic Rock roots. As we move into 'Little Fighter' this is not a pastiche of eighties White Lion as Tramp is clearly allowing the other musicians to add their own chemistry to the mix. 'What Am I' has a slight Stoner feel live, but the Metal heritage is not forgotten with three guitars mounting the riser towards the end. What a different sound we get for 'Lady Of The Valley'; it's a wall of sound to start with Tramp's voice sounding much warmer in tone than it ever did on the production of 'Pride' (which did him an injustice I always thought) with Soren making the guitar his own with a haunting loud and powerful tone streets away from Vito Bratta, but also distinctive and immense. We get a truly beautiful tremolo effect in Tramp's voice during 'Broken Heart', followed by a Rockier and faster version of 'When The Children Cry' than usual. Showing confidence in his great new single 'Coming Home', Tramp places this at the end of the show with a nod to the Shadows and Chuck Berry in the guitar work to finish the diverse musical fare. We would have liked to hear 'Wait' and 'Hungry' but maybe it's smart to leave us wanting more.
Tramp is engaging during the whole set, telling Rock 'n' Roll stories from his past, and he is not afraid to show who he is which inspires devotion from the crowd. He explains his dismay when his White Lion band mates outvoted him and chose Europe rather than the Bahamas for their first recording, only to spend two months in a grey German city. He is funny, joking that he's his own guitar tech cos "it's like sex, only you really know how you want it". He reflects how much happier he is with friends in smaller venues than Madison Square Garden when his only memory of it is a fight with Bratta. He goes on to explain how he turned down a place with Yngwie Malmsteen because he felt it would be treading old ground when he wanted to move on. Tramp emphasises life is a journey and it's all about the now. He appreciates his current band and says playing with people that you don't enjoy is not worth a billion dollars. The comments go down well with the crowd. Tramp is pleased to say his new album is Number One in Denmark which must feel good since it's his home. He raises his arms in passion to emphasise what he says and we know he means it.
Tramp does not want to be pigeonholed. He says he wants his songs to be how he wrote them, not all explosions and make up. His tattoos of Dylan, Cash and Harrison show he has wider roots so don't some looking for a Metal show. However, if you're looking for great musicianship and to see someone playing what he likes with all his heart, give this a go. Mike Tramp is wedded to great music, not Metal, and we were delighted to be invited to the feast.