Celebrating 50 years of MC5, co-founding member Wayne Kramer’s aptly named MC50 Kick out the jams tour comes to The Albert Hall, Manchester this evening. Selected to front the band is Marcus Durant (Zen Guerilla) who stands alongside other big named artists, Brendan Canty (Fugazi) drums, Kim Thayil (Soundgarden) guitar and Billy Gould (Faith No More) on bass. Supporting MC50 is special guest Michael Monroe.
Manchester must ’ve felt really lucky this evening as tonight’s show was the third of a four-date UK tour which concludes in London before heading out to Europe for the rest of the dates.
Showtime was announced at 8 pm for support act Michael Monroe but for some reason or other they came on stage around 10 minutes early which left some people disappointed as they missed the classic opener Ballard of the lower east side, ‘because they were just getting into the venue’!
Michael Monroe is always entertaining, armed with a 13 song set list of favourites from ’78 Baby, Hammersmith Palais and their cover of Up and around the bend. Frontman Michael (Mike) Monroe loves to give the crowd the best show of his life; from the way he dresses in his two-piece kick flare stage outfit embossed with stars and saxophones, to his high energy stage performance. You can’t believe he’s mid-fifties with his nimble stage moves from his high leg kicks to doing the splits, he has more vigour than a Duracell powered bunny! Adding to that Mike’s equally talented playing the saxophone and harmonica.
One of the highlights was Mike hightailing it up to the balcony, to the surprise of the fans seated up there. Michael Monroe band members Steve Conte, famed for his time in the New York Dolls (NYD) and Sam Yaffa (Hanoi Rocks and NYD) brought the New York swagger to stage jamming between themselves and guitarist Rich Jones who added a touch of English charm to the mix, whilst Karl Rockfist (Rosquist) on drums kept the beat during Mike’s balcony performance before he returned to stage.
That was some performance for a support act but those of you familiar with Michael Monroe will know he’s one of the greatest showmen and a fan of MC5 himself. The smiling faces and ecstatic applause confirmed he and his band pleased the audience tonight.
On time and taking to the stage, Wayne Kramer opens with Rambling Rose the first track off Kick out the Jams album which MC50 play in its entirety. Catching my attention behind bum wiggling Kramer is Marcus Durant who with his wild hair appears to me like a backing singer as he has no instrument and just a mike stand. But that’s before Kramer hands over to Durant shouting out the classic line of the next number ‘let’s kick out the jams Motherfuckers!’ And the avid fans start to go a bit mental down the front in the mosh pit.
You can now tell why they choose Marcus Durant as the singer for MC50, he’s definitely ‘giving it up brother’ as he warms into the numbers from Rama Lama fa fa fa (Rocket Reducer no 62) to the epic Starship; during which we are treated to almost 10 minutes of psychedelic jazz-infused rock, with Wayne and Marcus sharing vocal duties. Bam! I feel like I’m leaving the solar system and have travelled the space waves back to 1969. The lights are perfectly timed along with the drums and guitars, as the bass twangs the crescendo of noise rolls like thunderous sky during which Marcus plays some sort of adapted kazoo And for those ten passion filled minutes you really feel you are not in a music hall in Manchester but down in the depths of some musical womb and Jupiter is the destination ahead! Well, that certainly gained a rapturous applause from the crowd.
Whether you’re a fan of MC5/MC50 or just wanted to know what the fuss was about, all the band members had good stage presence and delivered a jam-packed 17 song setlist. Paying their respects mid-set to previous band members including sole survivor drummer Dennis ‘machine gun’ Thompson’. Taking an encore the band return to the stage and with his shirt soaked through and harmonica in hand Durant plays in Sister Anne during which I noticed a figure at the side of the stage, could it be? Yes, it is !… Mike Monroe joins MC50 for last the few bars of the song and stays to play the saxophone on Let me try and closer Looking at you.
And what a finale, as singer Marcus drops to his knees during the bands’ blistering performance of Looking at you, (maybe it was all the political ranting before the start of the song that took its toll, wink wink). Think what you will of bands using their platform to get their message across and in this case ”to use your Vote” erm, did the irony pass me by or isn’t that how both the UK & America got what they wanted in the first place (Brexit and Trump)?!
Well tonight the crowd voted MC50 and got a magical ride back in time, to glimpse an era where the music was so raw and improvised it grabbed your attention and you can see why it inspired so many bands. And to that, I’d like to say ‘Thank you MC50’ for your incarnation of the legendary MC5, so I could enjoy a slice of that psychedelic hard rock pie!
MC50 set list click here
Michael Monroe set list click here