Live Review: Mike Tramp – Wolverhampton

Live Review: Mike Tramp - KK's Steel Mill, Wolverhampton
31st August 2023
Support: Dan Byrne
Words & Photos: Scott Clarke

Its midweek, as I got to the venue it’s raining and dark, a great way to wrap up August and the end of summer but could the evenings entertainment brighten up the day? We were about to find out!

It was a slow burner to begin, a few people gradually trickling in 30 minutes after doors open and I was concerned that the weather would’ve put some off, however such thoughts were quickly dispelled and by 8pm when Dan took to the stage the venue was quite full from what I could see.

My first observation was the mix of faces young and old. Some obviously from the beginning of White Lion’s career and new fans alike all coming together. There was a wide range of t-shirts on display as well, from Wasp, Guns N Roses, Scorpions, Def Leppard, Kiss and of course Mike Tramp to more modern bands like Airbourne, the range of fans and musical tastes was quite broad but everyone had joined together for an evening of classic rock

This was also scheduled to be at the smaller room at KK’s, however from the locations of the other gigs and similar sized rooms I'd say this was more of a design choice and as the evening unfolded it became more apparent as to why this was the perfect setting but more on that later.

Photo Credit: Scott Clarke Photography

To start proceedings off was Dan Byrne, now it has only been a short time since I last saw Dan at the same venue but it was under slightly different circumstances as he was fronting Myke Gray’s Skin on the night. Tonight however, we get to see Dan on his own two feet.

Already knowing the quality of his singing ability I knew before we began we were in for a treat but I couldn’t see any setups on stage and wondered what we were in for. Low and behold as the clock struck 8, the side door opened and onto the stage walked Dan with just an acoustic guitar in tow.

Dan opened with a rousing “Oh Oh Oh” and launched into the first song Take You Out that he is more used to performing as a hard rock number with the band Revival Black. He lets the crowd know that he is planning to play songs from a bunch of projects he's been involved in and that he was going to “let you know when to get involved.”

Photo Credit: Scott Clarke Photography

Before beginning the second song of the set, Dan prepares the audience "Right KK’s I'm going to sing something and you're going to sing it back, let's have a go" as he plays Control a new track. After the second song comes to its conclusion, we get to hear Dan give us a little back story about himself and his time fronting Revival Black and also tales of his open mic nights which brings us nicely into the next track, something that he’s “always wanted to include if he did an acoustic session” and leads us into a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Simple Man. Poignant in a way as this stripped back set is just that and it’s a wonderfully captivating demonstration of Dan’s vocals.

After thank yous to his hosts for the evening, Mike Tramp and Marcus Nand and KK’s Steel Mill, Dan remarks that people who live close to this venue are very lucky to have this place on their doorstep. Yes we are Dan and don't we know it.

Up next is a double barrel of Revival Black tracks in Hemispheres and Wide Awake, between which Dan does a little self promo for his merch that’s available that would help him get some petrol money to be able to get home. There’s an audible chuckle amongst the crowd who have really took to Dan, he has a genuine wholesome charm that comes across on stage as well as it does when he takes the time to spend with the fans at the end of the night and although he only has a 6 track set for this evening, he seems to have gained new fans.

The last song Dan treats us to is Tower of Strength, one that he has been used to playing alongside Myke Gray very recently and he does a stellar job of making the song his own in this acoustic rendition. His voice definitely suits the acoustic tracks and he proves that he is more than capable of captivating a crowd with his voice alone

As he left the stage to much deserved applause, I think Dan will be very welcome back at KK’s no matter what project he is a part of.

Photo Credit: Scott Clarke Photography

The main attraction for the evening was of course Mike Tramp the frontman of classic 80s rock band White Lion, the heartbeat that has kept the band and its legacy going ever since. Tonight he was here in a much more stripped back capacity. Missing were the full band, instead he was accompanied only by Marcus Nand on lead guitar as Mike himself played rhythm, the rest of the instrumentation being completed by backing track.

Opening up with Lonely Nights, Hungry and then into Tell Me, Mike kicked off the set with big hits from possibly their most well loved release, Pride from 1987.

Immediately it’s clear that time has not dampened the pride and spirit of Mike who, almost 40 years on from the original release of the album, delivers the vocals effortlessly. His partner in rhyme from back in this time Vito Bratta, isn’t here but Marcus Nand does a phenomenal job of providing lead guitar and recreating the magic in the incredibly intricate solos that Vito composed all those years ago. Mike comments during the night that Marcus took the time to learn the songs note for note and the dedication and commitment to the project is clear. Later in the night when I got to speak to Marcus I pointed out to him that his fingers must be made from rubber, no human’s fingers could move the way his did over that fretboard tonight, to which he humbly laughed and said that it just takes a lot of warming up.

Photo Credit: Scott Clarke Photography

Mike gave us a lot tonight, much more than a back catalogue of classic rock tracks which any fan would’ve been satisfied with, instead he interacted with the audience in a way that I’ve not really seen before at any concert. He made a comment about usually being in Bilston, just a few miles down the road at another venue that he has frequently played, but it was nice to have finally made it all the way to Wolverhampton, home of his favourite band Slade and having last played here in 1993, apologises in advance for making us feel really old as he intends to share more with his audience.

Living on the Edge and Cry for Freedom are the first tracks representative of the Big Game album, an album that Mike tells us more about that didn’t go down too well at the time with Kerrang magazine and didn’t perform as well as they would’ve liked. Getting a call with the record company wanting a new album after 18 months of touring and writing and recording a new album in a short space of time left the band feeling they could’ve given more. To be honest, the songs are fine to me personally but as Mike later pointed out himself, the early 90’s was the dawning of Grunge, it didn’t really matter how good your classic rock material was, times were changing and it’s a shame because some real classics got lost and left unappreciated.

Photo Credit: Scott Clarke Photography

Till Death Do Us Part is one Mike says they never got to play for a live audience before this tour and its a special moment for a married couple in the front of the crowd who had bought their own banner for Mike requesting this very track, teary eyed they watch on emotionally.

Little Fighter and Love Don’t Come easy are up next and then we head back to Pride once again for Wait. As the greatest hits of White Lion came thick and fast intermixed with tales and stories of their inception, I go back to my opening statement of this review as to the choices made on the venues for this tour. It feels very much like "an evening with.." a moment in time with Mike and a discussion of his history and that of the band that just happens to be interspersed with the terrific songs. It's a much more intimate show and not to detract from the quality of the music on show, the incredible guitar playing or the vocals but this session shines in its openness and the conversation that we get to hear from a man who's been there and done it, sometimes not everything always going to plan but we have here a man opening his heart and his experiences to those willing to listen and it’s something I’ve not really experienced before to this extent. It’s a credit to Mike and to Marcus for being so down to earth and not having the inflated ego’s to match the size of the classic 80’s hair.

Photo Credit: Scott Clarke Photography

When the Children Cry, another track from Pride and Broken Heart one of the first tracks Mike wrote with Vito when he made it to New York with help from his mom and the bank, round out the set along with more stories that it would be a shame to spoil if I wrote about them all here.

Moving straight into the encore, Mike lets us know this is the encore after a previous attempt of going off stage years ago and letting the crowd wait for more lead to them walking back on stage to an empty venue, we have the White Lion version of Radar Love, which Mike informs us was originally requested as a bonus track on the Japanese release of the Big Game record. Finally closing out the night fittingly with Farewell to You.

Photo Credit: Scott Clarke Photography

Mike and Marcus take a bow to a round of applause from the audience and make their way out to meet and greet, spending time with everyone having selfies and signing merch with a constant smile on their faces. It's been a trip down memory lane for Mike that he invited us to join him on. It's the most open I have ever heard anyone discuss their band history, the feelings, the behind the scenes the ups and the downs. The music is secondary and regardless of your musical taste, His physical and vocal fitness is undoubtedly the star of the show, rolling back the years with grace, humour and humility and still having the goods to back it up.

Addressing the elephant in the room, backing tracks have been a marmite subject of late, you’re either okay with them or hate them. This is a different scenario in my opinion as the only thing added to this performance that wasn’t on stage were Bass and Drum tracks, Mike and Marcus played and sang their asses off, however, I do wonder what a Mike Tramp acoustic performance of the same songs would've been like as it feels like this setup was made for that especially after Dan's acoustic set earlier in the evening which went down a treat. With the closing statements to the crowd Mike said that this was just a seed planted and that he hoped to do this next year with a full band. It makes this seem like a precursor and that Mike is carefully reassembling the group as Marcus has been personally passed by Vito, not as a replacement but, in Mike’s words, to carry on his legacy, in that context I can understand the backing tracks for the rest of the instruments, Mike wants this to be right and so far it looks like its on the perfect track.

Outside it was dark and wet but in here it was a hot summers night back in the 80s.

Photo Credit: Scott Clarke Photography
Photo Credit: Scott Clarke Photography

All photo credits: Scott Clarke Photography

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