DSC_0641@ Newcastle Northumbria University Students’ Union, November 27 2013

Like Mick Jagger, Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper and Steven Tyler, the winsome, writhing and wonderfully charismatic Michael Monroe exists on a different artistic plane to the majority of rock n roll frontmen. 

A veteran of the live arena and a vivacious personality to boot, the Finn’s infectious enthusiasm, knowing glances, camaraderie with his fans and sense of fun-loving flamboyance was made for far bigger platforms than Northumbria University’s Students’ Union.

Yet Monroe commented more than once on his excitement at playing this modern yet modest venue – one of the best and most underused on Tyneside – and a dazzling display reflected his boyish zeal.

The former Hanoi Rocks’ singer would command the stage completely were it not for the fact that he continues to drag along for the ride legendary hangers-on Sami Yaffa and Steve Conte.

Two compelling characters in their own right, the former New York Dolls demanded just as much attention as their esteemed leader: cue a friendly battle for top billing that underpinned a truly special night.

Conte’s laid back gait and cheeky sneer is a clever act – Newcastle was treated to a clinically professional lead guitar masterclass from a musician who’s mastered the art of understated cool. Yaffa, of course, took it to a whole new level. Tapping away beneath his beige trilby, the rhythm king was beyond relaxed and provided the perfect foil for a livewire Monroe.

Opening up with the urgent title track from belting new album Horns And Halos, the blond bombshell raced through the main set in 60 minutes flat. Packing in everything from the brilliant Ballad Of The Eastside to ’78 and Stained Glass Heart to Hammersmith Palais this was the ultimate Best Of for fans new and old.

The energy was intoxicating, the delivery unnatural. A monster version of Malibu Beach Nightmare and a crowd-fuelled rendition of Dead, Jail Or Rock N Roll raised the bar and suddenly the encore beckoned.

Another thrilling 30 minutes ensued with Nothin’s Alright kicking things off in spectacular fashion. Monroe was cooking on gas, Conte was killing it and even Yaffa started to step forward, for a moment at least.

A memorable set was capped by a magnificent, meandering I Wanna Be Loved – the instinctive mini jam that ensued a genuine treat. This was the first stop on Monroe’s latest UK headline tour (he returns to Hard Rock Hell this weekend) and if this was a case of warming up for the dates to follow expect some of the hottest December nights on record.

Simon Rushworth