The setting in the Classic Grand is very intimate for tonight’s show. The stage is dimly lit. The front section of the room has a few tables and stools close to the stage. There was gentle lighting around the small venue, which had plenty of space for people to chill and walk around freely. It certainly wasn’t a sold out gig and maybe only half full for tonight’s performance. Still it made for a very intimate setting.
Opening act Christie Conner–Vernal simply walks onto the stage and starts us off with a nice cover of Tom Waits “Jesus Gonna Be Here”. I could hear straight away that Christie had a wonderful soulful voice within her petite frame. Christie was wearing a black and white stripey top, black shiny leggings and barefoot for her performance. With her face pale with very light make-up it did kind of give Christie a Gothic kind of look. I have never seen or heard Christie before and it was a pleasant surprise. I found out afterwards that tonight would be her last solo performance and then Christie is concentrating on work with her band, including a new EP which is coming out in the not too distant future (watch this space).
Christie tonight performs a handful of her own material and a few covers. I heard some soul, some blues and a bit of country in her style tonight, and I really was impressed with her material. “As Good As I Am” had a kind of country blues feel to it and seems to be about relationships, with the main message being “As good as I am, I am nothing without you”. It was a really nice song which had Christie apologising to her mum who was present tonight, for swearing in it towards the end, even though she is now an adult. Christie’s cover of Poison’s “Something To Believe In” was fantastic. Sounded different from a female perspective, and let truth be told Christie does have a much better voice than Brett Michaels. Another one of Christie’s songs “Oceans Away” was a lovely ballad, written about her siblings who live across the water. This song had a lot of emotion and personal feeling. Christie ends the set with something I wasn’t expecting at all. A cover of Kiss’ “God Gave Rock And Roll To You II”. It was a pleasant song to end with, and a fine job at covering this too, in her own unique way.
Christie Conner-Vernal Set List
Jesus Gonna Be Here
Black and Grey
As Good As I Am
Something To Believe In
All I Can Do
God Gave Rock And Roll To You II
Everything was relaxed and casual about tonights show. After a 20 to 30 minute break Mike Tramp casually walks onto the stage with his guitar and greets the audience. Mike begins proceedings with the opening song from the Cobblestone Street album. This was done majestically. At times during the choruses throughout the evening I believe Mike used some sort of effect to repeat or echo his voice so he was doing both main and backing vocals and this worked really well. Mike was witty and charming with the banter in between his songs during the night and immediately after joked about his set-list. That he didn’t add any Slayer songs to the list (having seen some of the Tee-shirts of different bands a few in the audience were wearing). Mike played songs from different stages of his career, mainly White Lion and solo material, with a few from his Freak of Nature years and immediately followed up with two from White Lion’s “Big Game” album.
Mike tells us stories and history of his past as the set moves along, and explains the songs he will be doing tonight are close to the original stuff he did with White Lion and Freak of Nature. It is how they were written originally with an acoustic guitar. “The only difference is the length of the hair and the amount of tattoos”. After listening to Mike’s latest album it was Cobblestone Street’s material I was really looking forward to hearing and “Ain’t The Life I Asked” was nice, chilled and laid back. A couple of Freak of Nature songs are played and it’s funny hearing “Rescue Me” in its original stripped down form without the heavy drum beat that features strongly in the version I was used to. But this was beautifully performed as was the song “Need”. I think these two were very strong on the night, and highlights for me. Mike shares memories of his past visiting Glasgow. Recalling The Cathouse was a great time and invited people to come have a chat with him after the show to maybe refresh some of his memories from his time in Glasgow. Mike also talks about loving the spirit of being in a band situation with Freak of Nature, and having band mates who could just sit down and have a beer together. At that point it was the best place on earth for him to be, but when the spirit changed it was the only place he didn’t want to be any more and therefore became the end of that band at that time.
Mike seemed warmed up by this point and everything was flowing smoothly, and a smooth version of “Hungry” led into another new song “Revolution”. Mike explains that to him “In the old days a real revolution meant something that was worth dying for, just to make it better for either you or your family. Today revolution probably doesn’t go any further than just an update on your Iphone and things like that”. It was now time for another White Lion number and “Love Don’t Come Easy”. This was an awesome version of one of their better known songs and just worked beautifully. Mike performs the song “Candle”, and briefly tells the story that he wrote this song on the night Kurt Cobain took his life, having felt disturbed by the events of that night. It was haunting to hear within the intimacy of the room and everyone there. This is followed up by a song Mike wrote for a benefit concert for returning soldiers in Denmark called “A Soldier Never Started the War”, about the “difference between waged war and the ones who for whatever reason just go out to take care of the dirty stuff. They just thought they would sign up to maybe get a better education”. This was a highlight that worked really well on the night. The fighting theme continued with “All The Fallen Men”.
There was a moment of tribute during the set, and Mike discussed the passing
of the late great Ronnie James Dio. Mike had toured with him with Freak of Nature, and later knew him more personally. Mike described Ronnie as a true Warrior for Rock and Roll and a passionate man in what he believed in. He will miss what to many, is the greatest voice in hard rock but his voice will live forever. Mike wrote the song “Hymn For Ronnie”, as tribute to the great man and how he felt about the situation at the time, putting together some of Ronnie’s song titles in making it. It was a lovely way to remember him by. I’m sure others in the room would have felt the same.
There was a string of White Lion songs and one Freak of Nature song “What Am I”, before Mike ended the set with what he described as the first two songs he wrote with Vito Bratta way back in 1983. Great renditions of “Broken Heart” and “Little Fighter” ended a wonderful set. There was no going off and back on stage for the encore. After the ovation, Mike went straight into the fantastic “More To Life Than This”, a personal favourite of his from his 2003 album of the same name. There was then a moving version of “When the Children Cry”. The penultimate song “Once” from his new album was performed, and this was epic performed live. It was slightly different without the Organ effects from the album and worked really well. Mike thanks the crowd and says very sincerely, “It’s been a wonderful night for me. I want you guys to really understand that that’s how I feel. Let’s hope we can keep this going ok? Thank you very much”. Mike finishes appropriately with White Lion’s “Farewell To You”.
So the verdict for tonight was something very positive. It was great being able to hear the original Mike Tramp songs he had written acoustically before they became the versions we know with White Lion and Freak of Nature. In a way I believe this made the whole experience much more intimate. Mike had the patter in between songs, and told us some great personal thoughts, feelings and stories of his musical life over the years. After chatting with Mike and seeing him perform I could see how very passionate and focused he was about his music. The guy just loves to perform and its rooted deep within his soul. There could have been ten people there or a few thousand, and I believe it wouldn’t have made a difference to his performance. I know people will keep asking him “Will you ever re-unite White Lion?” For the moment the answer is no. Mike is in a great place right now and happy doing what he is doing and does what he feels is the right thing to do. The music world is a happier place with artists like Mike Tramp, who is a genuinely nice down to earth guy. All we need to do is keep supporting him to continue to make music and do what he loves, which is experiencing life and sharing it with us all within his music. If you haven’t seen Mike Tramp yet, you are missing out on something special. I would recommend go spending a whole two hours in his intimate company.
Mike Tramp Set List
Cry For Freedom
Going Home Tonight
Ain’t The Life I Asked
Love Don’t Come Easy
A Soldier Never Started The War
All The Fallen Men
We’ll Be Alright
Hymn For Ronnie
What Are You Gonna Do
What Am I
Lady Of The Valley
More To Life Than This
When The Children Cry
Farewell To You