It’s been four long years since ‘Blackout States’ was released and four long years since Michael Monroe toured the UK. But The Monroes are back on the road promoting the newly released ‘One Man Gang’ opus, and joining them on this long overdue UK jaunt are Japan’s finest exponents of shock rock ‘n’ roll, Electric Eel Shock. With a date at my favourite venue The Brudenell Social Club on a Friday night, tickets were in the bag quick sharpish. This is a good job as it sold out a few days later.
Polish rockers Chemia are a bluesy-based, classic rock sort of affair. I only caught the last couple of songs of their set, but what I heard was fairly decent. I’m very wary of any band that has a bass player with 5 strings on his instrument and Chemia fit that bill. While they are not really my cup of tea, closer ‘I Love You So Much’ is a decent slice of 80’s rock with a cool catchy chorus and they seem to go down well with the growing crowd.
I’ve witnessed the Electric Eel Shock show before. Many here haven’t, and one of the best moments of this evening’s gig was seeing the reaction to their set around me. As Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man’ blasts from the PA, drummer Tomoharu stands on his kit and matches the beat. He is naked apart from a sock dangling from his cock. Either side of him, guitarist Akihito and bassist Kazuto incite the gobsmacked crowd to rock and bow down to the glorious event they are about to behold.
“We are Electric Eel Shock from Japaaan!” shouts Akihito after taking his flying V out of his mouth! Kazuto’s bass is above his head and the drummer is bashing out beats with four sticks. No one knows where to look, there is so much going on.
Electric Eel Shock have been doing this for 25 years and they have it off to a fine art. They sound like Dave Mustaine singing for Quiet Riot and I mean that in a good way. “We love 80’s heavy metaaal!” shouts the diminutive singer before blasting into ‘So Much 80’s”. He pulls off Eddie Van Halen style solos, sticks plectrums to his forehead and tells one liners that match any stand up comedian.
They have some kick ass tunes as well. ‘Bastard’ is one hell of a song live. As the singer points to his bassist and shouts the refrain, then at the crowd and at himself, we all sing along to that gratifying chorus, smiling and laughing in unison.
They played to a full house tonight and I don’t recall ever seeing such a positive response to a support band before. Electric Eel Shock came, they saw and they conquered.
There are not many bands that could follow that performance, and tonight’s headliners happen to be one of the few. As the lights drop and that familiar tribal intro blasts from the PA, the warmed up and sold out Brudenell crowd let out great cheers for Michael Monroe’s long awaited return to Leeds. Dressed all in black with matching ‘One Man Gang’ jackets, the Monroe cohorts face their drummer, as the legendary frontman bounds towards the microphone and leads them into the high energy tongue twister of a title track.
It’s no surprise that the band are on fire from the off. Rich Jones and Steve Conte play riffs off each other, Sami Yaffa brings the trademark low end rumble and Karl Rockfist pummels the hell out of his kit, as Finland’s very own Iggy Pop bounds about the stage like a 25 year old rock star with something to prove. This band is high energy rock ‘n’ roll personified and they sound magnificent.
Opening a set with 5 songs from your new album is a brave move, especially with the back catalogue Michael Monroe has. I guess it goes to show how strongly the band believes in the new material. And while ‘Last Train to Tokyo’ and ‘Junk Planet’ sound mighty live and get plenty of crowd reaction, no one down the front is moving. In fact it’s not until the familiar vocal drawl of ‘Ballad Of The Lower East Side’ that things really get cooking and the front erupts into a frenzy. So good, it sounds so good! The band have hit the level and the crowd are with them , then just after Conte pulls of a killer solo…boom! They blow the power!
Instant comedown…the show stops abruptly. But the livewire frontman is not going to let a simple thing like electricity stop his show, on no. So while the band shrug their shoulders and head to the bar while stage guys frantically try to fix the problem, the singer takes to the kit and does a 10 minute drum solo, entertains the front row with his spinning glowsticks and even gets his sax out for a solo, before power is thankfully restored.
The band strap on their instruments, have a quick discussion and blast back right where they left off mid-song, like nothing ever happened. Rock ‘n’ fuckin’ roll! ‘Old King’s Road’ and a punky ‘78’ follow, with Rich and Sami joining Michael with the high kick action. The band seem in their element, Rich Jones especially is animated and at the font mouthing the words to the songs.
The room erupts once more as Sami plays the classic bass riff that introduces ‘Motorvatin’. I will never tire of hearing those old Hanoi songs and neither will the majority here, judging by the response. Classic follows classic, an extended and emotive ‘Don’t You Ever Leave Me’, a killer ‘Malibu Beach’ and a frantic ‘Up Around The Bend’. The band play with the energy and attitude needed to deliver these classics to an audience that laps up every note and every melody.
A Demolition 23 double bill encore follows the dark and dramatic newbie ‘Low Life In High Places’. ‘Nothin’s Alright’ and ‘Hammersmith Palais’ are like an injection of adrenaline straight to the heart. Closing with The Stooges classic ‘I Feel Alright’ is the icing on the cake. Raw, sweaty, high energy rock ‘n’ roll, it doesn’t get any better than this.
Michael Monroe and his band are a well-oiled machine with an arsenal of some of the best rock ‘n’ roll songs you could wish for. And the legendary frontman is a performer who gives his all every show. Tonight they truly had to work for it, but technical issue were never going to halt a band of this calibre and in the live arena, they are simply untouchable. Probably the best gig I have seen at this venue.
Author: Ben Hughes
‘One Man Gang’ Album Review Here
Picture from the exceptionally talented Neil Vary Gig Photography