Unlike many “stars” of the late 80s hair metal scene, Mike Tramp is not a singer merely content to rest on the laurels of his past successes and bask in their faded glow, but is an artist who has matured gracefully and easily into someone comfortable with where he has come from and the situation in which he now finds himself – that of a confident songwriter, reflective of what has gone before, grateful for what he possesses now and hopeful for what the future holds.
Making his third visit to the intimate and packed Diamond Rock Club, Tramp’s affection for his fans and his joy of being able to play on his terms are obvious right from the off, as he delivers a liltingly ironic version of White Lion’s ‘Little Fighter’ before one of his frequent and often self-deprecating storytelling sessions: this time, he talks of rifling through a collection of old magazines and seeing photographs of the band which first brought him to public attention… “he’s blonde, he must be the singer” he says of what must have been the reaction of many a pubescent female. He even takes a swipe at many stars who, unlike him, are content to make a living out of doing just that from their past glories: talking about finding a box of his old stage clothes, he comments “maybe when I need a gig I’ll put them on and throw it on YouTube… wait, that’s what Gene Simmons has been doing for years!”
Of course, Tramp has moved on, and the purpose of this tour is to promote his new solo album, the wonderful ‘Museum’ – another collection of passionate, retrospective and philosophical songs from an artist brutally honest about his own feelings.. and also his own failings. The album is the perfect successor to last year’s extremely personal and emotive ‘Cobblestone Street’, making a duopoly of albums which perfectly reflect what his live shows in turn are about: a window into his soul, a return to his roots, an embracing of good times which may never be recovered, an appreciation of ages past and those who have shaped the man he has become.
Between the career spanning repertoire of songs – from the laconic and beautifully stripped ‘Wait’ (which shows that Tramp is no mere ‘strummer’ but a pretty decent guitar player himself) to the obviously affectionate ‘Mother’, via the dark and gritty ‘Rescue Me’ to the ever powerful ‘When The Children Cry’ – there are stories galore, from touring with Skid Row and Motley Crue to doing the same with AC/DC (“we were pretty boys opening for the biggest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world – we were sure we were gonna get killed!”), and (in response to a question from the audience) a frank dismissal of any chance of a White Lion reunion – “this is what I was born to do”, he responds. And we believe him.
His acerbic view of the modern music business – one of the reasons he has chosen to go down the DIY route in the latter stages of his career (and no more ably evinced than on the acerbic ‘Slave’ from the new ‘Museum’ opus)- is reflected in some of his other musings: “my daughter asked me if I could write a song for One Direction – I said I could maybe it as far as the first verse” he says at one stage later adding, during his intro to the haunting ‘Cobblestone Street’ – taken from the afroementioned album of the same name, one about returning to his roots and keeping the flame alive – “Simon Cowell has singlehandedly destroyed the music industry… competition is for sport!”. The latter comment earns rapturous applause – well, at least those of us bothering to actually listen to the man and his music – something he himself picks up on when he asks “have you guys decided what pint your ordering? ”Cos if you have, I need another one”.
Mike Tramp has managed to cast of the cloak of his past hair metal (in)glories in a way only a handful of his contempories (such as Eric Martin and Tom Keifer) have been able to do, and re-invented himself as a mature, reflective songwriter bringing to the the fore the qualities he often hinted at in his past career and doing so with a smouldering fire that still burns deep in his sceptical rock’n’roll heart, playing songs that tug on the heartstrings and stir the soul in a truly genuine and passionate manner. At the end of one of his sets, it’s not just the children who are crying…
Photographs taken at the The Classic Grand, Glasgow