Live Review : Mike Tramp + C.F. Boneslum + Junior Dayvis @ The Live Rooms, Chester on April 17th 2019

Sadly (for me at least) Mike’s current touring support Rob Wylde was unable to make tonight’s show, so we had two local acoustic musicians I wasn’t aware of to open up for us.

First up was Junior Dayvis. He turned out to be a tall man with a twinkly smile, and he played laid-back summery music. Occasionally the lyrics became slightly edgy and there was a [Ben Elton Mode] touch of politics [/Ben Elton Mode} involved, but mostly it was polite, slightly melancholy and very much in tune. He was a nice way to start the evening.

The second support, C.F. Boneslum (had to check that spelling several times!) was a totally different kettle of fish. Or even kettle of drums if you prefer. I saw the name, and imagined someone playing a cigar-box guitar with a string or two missing, possibly wearing dungarees, and singing country blues. So I poised the light-up pen and got ready to be scathing – silly me. Called that totally wrong, it’s not often you get to watch a one-man-band play at what is ostensibly a rock gig! Somehow by dint of hands and feet this chap (who looked like a slightly built hipster with his swept-back hair and manicured beard) managed to play guitar, bass, drum, harmonica and sing and pumped out a pretty decent sound while he was doing it. I wasn’t too far off the mark with the country blues bit though, and if I tell you that as well as his own songs he slotted in covers of ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ and Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ I’m sure you can get the flavour of his sound. He was good. Ok! he wasn’t rock but if you are up for something a bit different that makes you smile as you nod along to it then C.F. is your man, and I recommend you check him out.

A short break and then it was time for the main man. I’m sure you’re familiar with Mike Tramp’s early work, he is originally from Denmark and was the vocalist in both White Lion and then Freak Of Nature, both massive-selling US-based bands in the late 80s and early 90s. Recent Tramp is a little more introspective and folky though, preferring these days to just hit the road as a solo acoustic artist. There are of course versions of his “greatest hits” still in the set, but also a lot of his recent acoustic output. This makes for a good mix, and is also interspersed with some tales of his life, all delivered in his soft voice that still has traces of Danish in the accent.

So yeah, really that’s the thing about Tramp, the voice. Or in fact let’s give it it’s due, The Voice. Tramp is no youngster, he’s been on the scene for over 30 years and is now in his late 50s, but unlike some of his 80s contemporaries he still has The Voice. His voice has power, and soul, and melody and is the absolute illustration of someone being able to use their voice as an instrument.

On to the details, and he opened strongly with ‘The Gathering, which as the name suggests harks back to Freak Of Nature’s second album. The audience are rapt, we’re all seated around tables and the whole thing is very civilised, but when he finishes instead of polite applause there is much cheering, whooping and clapping!

I have to be honest here and say that although I like Tramp I’m not a dedicated fan so a lot of the song titles passed me by and as he plays whatever he fancies and doesn’t work from a setlist I couldn’t use that as an aide-memoire either. I did recognise some of them though, and after a couple of his recent acoustic tunes we got a back-to-the-80s tale which we could all identify with as most of us also have much less hair and much more waistline these days. That was the prelude to the White Lion song ‘Hungry’ which apparently was the first song Mike and ex songwriting partner and guitarist Vito Bratta wrote together back in the day. All these years later it’s still a fresh, happy, bouncy sort of song! His next offering was also a Freak Of Nature song, and thanks to his hint of Scandi accent and lead-in story about how his 3 divorces left him feeling I could have sworn it was called “Bit Rough” – nope, it’s actually ‘Better Off’ which I suppose makes almost as much sense……

More songs follow, along with tales from Mike’s life on the road. There is ‘Tell Me, and ‘Candle’, and the ‘Goodbye Song from his 3rd Solo album. It’s at this point I notice that actually he handles the guitar pretty well considering he is mostly known for being a singer rather than a player. A track off his latest album ‘Homesick’ is a melancholy lament to life on the road, although thankfully it doesn’t contain any lyric references to the toilet story. No spoilers, but ask me about that one or better still go and see Tramp yourself and listen to him tell the story, it’s worth it!

Reflections on life follow, with Mike referring back to his past and also wondering about the future. He tells us it’s meeting us, his fans, that helps keep him grounded. Oh and also playing most of his songs in A flat apparently. OK Mike! More songs follow, building up to the crescendo that is of course ‘Wait’, a White Lion song that gets you right in the feelings every time. It’s a bit more upbeat and a bit less ballady when he plays it acoustically, which is a nice touch. Another nice space is that he leaves a space where the guitar solo would normally be, dedicating it to Vito as only he can play the solo to that song. Neatly done, and I wonder if they still speak?

The final song involves the only time I have noticed a backing track all evening, chucking in some violins for a very moving rendition of ‘When The Children Cry’. One final solo song and Tramp is off to the merch stand to chat to his people, staying absolutely on-track with his ethos of remaining true to himself.

Not the rockest of rock gigs to be sure, but a civilised evening with a very talented performer and there’s nothing wrong with that!

Words and Photography by Jo Crosby