5th March 2008
In 1984 I, along with many others, had a brief flirtation with Finnish sleaze merchants Hanoi Rocks. Their Two Steps From The Move album made quite an impact, with its catchy hooks and groovy melodies, but the affair came to an abrupt end with the tragic death of the bands drummer, Razzle. Hanoi Rocks split, and all we were left with was an image of a band that could have been. Fast forward twenty three years and I get sent a copy of Hanoi Rocks latest album, Street Poetry, which is almost staggeringly good, a real return to those bad old days of my youth. Naturally, when I learned that they were coming to play in Bristol I had to check them out, so here I am at The Carling Academy, wondering if Hanoi can still rock.
There’s a healthy crowd in, even though the place isn’t packed as such. Amongst the throng, a few sunken faces and big haircuts fly the flag for the glam/sleaze brigade, although the vast majority haven’t dressed up any more than they normally would. Before we see the flying Finns, however, the Soho Dolls are inflicted on us. Okay, so ‘inflicted’ isn’t a nice word, but Soho Dolls are so out of place at this gig it hurts. They’ve got a good look, with a cute but weird female singer, a bassist with a real double bass and some glammy haircuts, but the music just sucks like a vacuum cleaner convention. It’s a monotonous dirge that brings to mind early Depeche Mode or Gary Numan at their most boring. Although they get polite applause after each track, it’s clear they go with Hanoi Rocks like dismembered corpses at a church picnic. This is the sort of music that used to be favoured by wankers who would devour the NME each week before going on an anti Thatcher rally. In short, it’s not rock music, it’s not good music, and it’s not welcome here.
Thank God for Hanoi Rocks, who light up the stage with proper music as they kick off with the instrumental Fumblefoot & Busy Bee from Street poetry, a lively Western themed jaunt that sets the mood for the main event. The main event, of course, is Michael Monroe, who explodes onstage to tear into Hypermobile and Malibu Beach. I swear he doesn’t look any older than all those years ago, and this thought seems to be echoed by various women at the front who salivate every time he wiggles his arse. Mind you, he wiggles it a lot, posing and high kicking like Mick Jagger and David Lee Roth on a hot plate. Micael Monroe, it seems, wants you to have a good time, and who are we to argue.
Recent tracks like the Finnish number 1 Fashion and the horrendously lively People Like Me sit comfortably alongside old classics Boulevard Of Broken Dreams, Tragedy and Taxi Driver. Andy McCoy, the other original band member, seems content to hand about on his side of the stage playing mostly rhythm guitar, leaving ex Electric Boys six stringer Conny Bloom to handle most of the meaty stuff, something he does with some serious flair. McCoy may be the old hand, but Bloom is the one that new fans will be taking about. Well, they would be if it wasn’t for Monroe, anyway. Not only does he sing, dance and go through several costume changes, he also plays a mean sax and harmonica as well as twirling his microphone around on it’s lead like a cocky David who’s just found out that Goliath has a weak spot on his bonce. This is a man whose performance should be mandatory viewing at Rock Camp, as he really lifts the enjoyment factor just by being himself.
Day late, Dollar Short is dedicated to Razzle, though without getting too schmaltzy and bringing anyone down. Elsewhere, Highwired, Power Of Persuasion, Oriental Beatand Don’t You Ever Leave Me Baby help to fill a ninety minute set that has absolutely no weaknesses. I honestly didn’t expect to be as entertained as this, and walk away afterwards with a big grin and several choruses flitting round in my brain. Hanoi Rocks can still pull it out when they need to, and boy are they good at it.
Review and photos by Alan Holloway,