Mike Tramp @Newcastle Trillians, August 24 2023

Tramp by name, swaggering lord of rock by nature.

White Lion’s mane man might be the wrong side of 60 but the ‘Danish Bono’ has lost none of the charismatic cool that carried his band to the brink of hair metal glory in the late 80s.

A thrill-a-minute throwback set — featuring the phenomenal Marcus Nand on lead guitar — underlined Tramp’s enduring talent as an accomplished singer and ambitious songwriter.

Mixing White Lion classics with myriad anecdotes, a 13-song set comfortably stretched to more than 90 minutes.

And the insight into Tramp’s colourful career proved just as compelling as the pin sharp versions of Wait, When The Children Cry, Cry For Freedom and more.

Had Guns N Roses’ raucous 1987 debut not been released on the same day as Pride then who knows?

Vito Bratta could have eclipsed Slash as the Sunset Strip’s pre-eminent six-stringer.

And Tramp might have muscled out Axl Rose in the race to become MTV’s most bankable frontman.

That White Lion recovered from that unfortunate marketing clash is one of the most remarkable stories of the hair metal era.

But thanks to Wait — and the irony of that classic ballad’s title becomes richer by the decade — Tramp and co. were finally afforded the critical acclaim their talent deserved.

Nand excelled on that breakout hit’s impossibly intricate solo as the Flamenco-trained Freak Of Nature alumnus did Bratta proud.

Tramp revealed White Lion’s shredders past and present have become best buddies and frequently chew the fret-fuelled fat.

As a much-missed live performer, Bratta’s a big, big loss to world of rock but his legacy’s safe in the hands of Nand.

Time and time again Tramp’s familiar sidekick tackled some of the toughest guitar parts in rock and roll history.

On each occasion he came out on top.

The evocative Little Fighter was dedicated to much-missed Geordie DJ Little Jeff: Tramp did the same at The Cluny in 2008 and always fondly remembers Tyneside’s larger-than-life tastemaker.

It’s just one of the many bonds the former White Lion frontman shares with his loyal Newcastle fans.

Reading the room in typically canny fashion, Tramp also rolled out the story of hometown hero Brian Johnson — recounting a tale from AC/DC’s 1988 North American tour.

Tramp recalled how Bon Scott’s successor paid a visit to White Lion’s dressing room to personally thank the pretty boy support band for luring women to an Acca Dacca gig. 

Just imagine that.

On the same tour, the politically charged New Yorkers were brave enough to showcase When The Children Cry to a traditionally unforgiving AC/DC crowd.

And it went down a storm.

That White Lion’s socially sentient anthem for the ages continues to tug at the heartstrings, 35 years down the line, is delightful and damning in equal measure.

Of course, there’s a school of thought that Tramp’s determination to pass comment on some seriously heavy subject matter ultimately prevented his band from scaling even greater heights.

White Lion’s lyrical content often jarred with the cheesy pop rock favoured by peers Poison, Ratt, Mötley Crüe et al.

And it was frequently at odds with the excess-all-areas trope most associated with hair metal’s hedonistic peak.

But in the twilight of his career, Tramp reminded Trillians that staying true to his art has been the greatest triumph of a life well lived.

Axl might have a few more million in the bank. But Tramp’s the true rock and roll hero.

Images courtesy of Mick Burgess