Pick Your Rock and Metal

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

LIVE REVIEW: Raconteur, musician, entertainer Mike Tramp wows with acoustic set at Diamond Rock Club

WHEN it comes to live entertainment, it is a tough gig. Entertainers are supposed to stand in front of strangers, making them smile, laugh, cry, applaud and generally go home happy.

Standing on a stage, with only an acoustic guitar and a mic makes the task even harder. No backing band, no fireworks or dancing girls...

But when Mike Tramp returned to the Diamond Rock Club in Ahoghill, County Antrim on Saturday (6th September) he proved himself once again to be a fine raconteur, a sublime singer, a true musical troubadour and a top rate entertainer.

Before the former White Lion frontman took to the stage local singer/songwriter Matt Fitzsimmons hopped atop a bar stool, strapped on his acoustic and opened proceedings with Chris Tattler playing lead foil alongside.

Matt is undoubtedly a fine performer and has a bag of songs up his sleeve worth airing. Similarly Chris - formerly co-conspirator with Matt, and Midnight Transmission - can lay down licks and lead work to a high standard.

While the closing set of cover versions always go down well, it is Matt's own compositions that need to be heard more. Let's hear more about your global adventures in music Matt!

After a suitable break for beverages, the audience gathered round the stage, acolytes to Mike Tramp's past and present work. No stranger to Ahoghill, Tramp is immediately at ease with his acoustic set.

Having been touring this set for a number of weeks around Europe - and being in familiar surroundings - he is both confident and in almost celebratory mode.

Making a point to thank Derwin for keeping live rock going, Tramp's set was a well worked mix of White Lion and Freak of Nature songs. While these were the ones most familiar to those present it is fair to say that his solo compositions stand proud beside the previous canon.

Keeping thoughts real, Tramp recounted his time as a vocalist in the 80s, recently confessing to "opening that well sealed box" and intermingling jocularity about the big hair and the many magazines of the time to a certain poignancy for the days when music was appreciated not consumed.

Noting Tramp's comments on the importance of people still turning up to listen to shows, this was an almost exact echo of the comments of English extreme thrash metal act Collapse's front man Harry Watson, who six hours earlier thanked everyone present for taking the time to turn up. [We were there with our colleagues from Planet Mosh at Belfast's Limeligh2 earlier in the day to review Sinocence's 13th Birthday show - review here.]

And, it is in the live environment that songs must be heard, and performances seen, in context rather than bracketed in a playlist sandwiched between advertisements about life insurance to remind us of our mortality.

Our mortality was something Tramp hinted at a number of times. The age and profile of rock fans varies enormously. While metal still attracts the younger enthusiasts - albeit in smaller numbers than in the past - the audience for hard rock acts is claimed to be on the decline.

Like a number of recent similar shows in Northern Ireland the age profile is very much in the 40 to 60 demographic.

But that is a double-edged sword. While those that listened to White Lion in the land of long ago may be adding a few pounds they also now have - in large - children who are older and hard rockin' are not rooted to the house as much now that their progeny has evolved beyond burbling and CBBC.

That means that the career of Tramp and similar acts should - and can - keep going. When there are songs as strong as 'Trust in Yourself' (opening track of the new Museum album) aired live together with 'Mother' and 'Hymn for Ronnie' there is clearly powerful rock and mature songwriting available to those that choose to listen beyond what the fat radio controllers say we should listen to.

Stand-out tracks on the night included 'Broken Heart' and a pretty cool cover of 'Radar Love', but the audience were more than content with the set and to listen to the war stories, the reflections and recollections; more than happy to singalong; more than happy to applaud, acclaim, empathise and laugh with and toast Mike Tramp.

The job of entertainer is not just the t-shirt or CD sales: the cash pays the bill, but surely when an entertainer such as Mike Tramp delivers this way it should be the balm to any setbacks and will propel him to keep on doing what he is doing.

Review by Jonny
Mike Tramp's latest release 'Museum' is now available on Target or by visiting http://miketramp.dk/home

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