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'London, Shepherds Bush Empire, 12 Nov 2018'   

-  Genre: 'Rock'

Our Rating:
This show is part of Wayne Kramer's 50th anniversary tour to celebrate the first MC5 album Kick Out The Jams, so he's put together a crack band to go and show us just how powerful that debut album still sounds.

I have to admit, however, that along with quite a few of my friends at this sadly not sold out show I didn't decide to go until they had added Michael Monroe to the bill. After all, going along to clock a band with only one of the two surviving original members wasn't a big enough pull for me. Well, in the end I was very glad indeed that I went as it turned into one of the gigs of the year.

The Michael Monroe band came on a couple of minutes early and actually started playing off stage, with a semi acoustic version of The Ballad Of The Lower East Side before they were all properly in position and suddenly burst into full life and we were off on a rollercoaster non-stop blast of a set.

They didn't pause for more than 30 seconds over the course of the set and Trick Of The Wrist was as full on as they could make it with Michael dancing all over the stage as Steve Conte and Rich Jones' guitars rampaged and the energy blasted through the Empire. With barely a pause to look at each other, they dove into Malibu Beach Nightmare that got anyone not already moving going along with them as Sami Yaffa's bass laid down that familiar rumble and Michael as ever twisted and turned as he got everyone going and smiling.

The lyrics to The Old Kings Road may be full of rueful memories of how great it once was but the band play with such abandoned joy that you can't help to grin along with them as this total rock and roll monster doesn't want to stop. This Ain't No Love Song flew into view as Karl Rockfist nailed that beat and the rest of the band got on with showing just how tight and totally entertaining they are as always.

78 has a slightly slower pace giving them a little time to recover but not much as they bounced all over the stage like the most hyperactive band around. We then got to the first pause in the set as Michael asked us if we knew the Alice Cooper song A Long Way To Go from the album Love it To Death and he wasn't impressed by the lack of a reaction he got before singing the song and making us all love it hopefully as much as he clearly does himself.

They then played two Demolition 23 classics. Nothin's Alright always goes down a storm and how could Hammersmith Palais not go down a treat being played about 800 yards from where that great venue once stood.

Not Fakin It is really this band's credo as they all look and sound 100% committed to being a great Rock band. No matter how many lines from other songs they pinched for the lyrics it always sounds great as did the seemingly faster than normal cover of Up Around The Bend that had a cool sax solo in it from Michael and plenty of running around.

Michael then introduced the band before they flew through the last song of this whirlwind of a set. Dead Jail Rock & Roll felt like a perfect way to end such a great opening set and once which was easily good enough to blow most other bands off the stage. I also know quite a few people who thought this was the best set on the night.

After the break on came the MC50 to the sound of the spoken word intro on the original album. The current band for night was Brother Kim Thayil on Guitar, Brother Brendan Canty on Drums, Brother Doug Pinnick on Bass and Brother Marcus Durant on Vocals and Hair and of course Brother Wayne Kramer on Guitar and vocals.

Brother Wayne actually ran onstage and as the intro came to a close he joined in telling us it was time to get down and then they blasted into Ramblin Rose. Damn, they sounded incredibly good and Brother Wayne was throwing all sorts of moves with his guitar like he was still in his teens or twenties and not a 70 year old man while also taking lead vocals.

Brother Wayne then handed over the main vocals to Brother Marcus as the band Kicked Out The Jams like the Motherfuckers they obviously are while sounding way better than I feared they might. As Brother Wayne did his best to do all the asides on the original album before they blasted away at Come Together and by this point it had become clear that Marcus Durant had got the job of being Rob Tyner as much for his voice as for his hair and general presence and was having a blast singing these songs.

Motor City Is Burning seemed more on the money than usual even if it was actually California that was actually burning as they played. That didn't matter as it just highlighted how relevant much of the MC5's material still is.

Rocket Reducer No 62 (Rama Lama Fa Fa fa) sounded just great and when Brothers Wayne and Kim got to the break down and traded feedback it was brilliant before they all came back in and everyone sang along to the Rama Lama bits.

Borderline was for me the most emotional song in the set mainly due to having spent some time that afternoon with the mother and sister of my one childhood friend who got blown to pieces on the Israeli Borderline back in 1982. His mother never recovered and has been in a home for over 20 years since she retreated into her own world. So seeing Brother Wayne strafing the audience with his guitar had some added poignancy for me.

I Want You Right Now sounded both like an urgent plea and just about as salacious as they could get it as they managed to make it sound nice and sleazy. Then it was time for a song called Starship and they set the controls for outer space and took us on as much of a journey as they could manage. The instrumental bits were great nice and jazzy and experimental but obviously not as good as the MC5/Sun Ra version Brother Wayne played at the Royal Festival Hall back in 2005.

That also meant we'd reached the greatest hits section and kicked it off with Tonight: a song that always sounds like a pop hit to me and this version was no different as all of them looked like they were really having a good time playing it.

Brother Wayne then swapped his Stars and Stripes guitar for an acoustic for Shakin' Street that was for many of us a great swaggering sing along. He returned to a different electric guitar for Future/Now and yes, we wanted to hear it Right now and we need that revolution right now too.

They then got a bit lovey dovey on a cover of Them's I Can Only Give You Everything. Well why would you settle for less than that and it was certainly a full on plea for love and attention.

They closed with a rather swaggering version of Call Me Animal that had some more flashy moves from Brother Wayne before he bounced off stage to a huge cheer.

Yes of course they came back for an encore that opened with Sister Anne that sounded great and about two thirds of the way through Michael Monroe joined them on Saxophone to really help fill it out.

Then Brother Wayne told us how the band was originally always a soul and R & B band before they played Let Me try with Michael Monroe playing a great Sax solo. It was good to see him playing Sax for an entire song instead of the normal 8 bar breaks as Brothers Brendan and Doug seemed locked in a groove for the others to fly off of it sounded great.

They went back to quintet formation, closing the night with a wonderfully anthemic version of Looking At You that seemed like a perfect way to end a truly great night's music even if they didn't play a couple of my favourite MC5 songs. It really didn't matter as Brother Wayne jumped and waved as he ran off the stage. See them while you have the chance.
  author: simonovitch

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