Stranger things might have happened, but it was pretty hard to believe that for a show headlined by a Ramone, mobile bar tables had to be pulled out to fill the standing zone so that it would not look so empty. An hour after the doors opened to Marky Ramone’s Blitzkreig’s one-night show in Hong Kong, the venue was still only half-occupied. This was totally unexpected because many previous gigs on the tour were sold-out. One may wonder if it was in protest of Marky Ramone’s selling out, but it turns out many Hong Kong hardcore Ramones’ fans and punk followers did not know Marky was in town due to the poor promotion — it was only listed in Time Out and Hard Rock’s Facebook fan page.
At 11pm, Marky and the band came onto the tiny and fully packed stage. Fronted by the legendary drummer Marky and vocalist Michale Graves (ex-Misfits), Marky Ramone’s Blitzkreig kicked off the show with the Ramones’ signature “1, 2, 3, 4!” — the simplest line that can strike millions of die-hard punk fans’ nerves. The band performed about 20 songs (down from 34 in other gigs on the tour) in an hour without encore or any conversation with the audience. It was obvious that the band was upset by the lack of audience and the overall poor promotion, stage setting, and stereo system on the part of the organizer, Hard Rock Cafe Hong Kong.
The signature count from the bassist was followed by a powerful downstroke guitar riff, and, of course, the intense eight-note drum beat by Marky. Graves, coming out in a black leather jacket, rip-off jeans wrapped with duct tape, and Men In Black sunglasses, sung “Chewin’ at a Rhythm on My Bubble Gum…” But the crowd was as static as if they were at a jazz live. It was only until Graves reached the punk-anthem chorus “Rock-Rock-Rockaway Beach… We can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach”, that part of the crowd started to shake, and the atmosphere got slightly better.
Following “Rockaway Beach” were “Teenage Lobotomy”, “Psychotherapy”, and “Do You Wanna Dance”. Between each song, there was only a four-note pause when the bassist shouted “1-2-3-4!” You could easily feel the intensity from the performance; and for one moment you might think the Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone were still alive. Even though, in the interview with us, Marky did not agree or denied whether Marky Ramone’s Blitzkreig was a tribute to the Ramones, the gig was run in a tribute-like fashion. The almost full set of Ramones’ songs performed in half-tempo faster than the album version, and the four-note straightforward transition between songs were Ramones signatures. In spite of a shorter set, the band still covered hits like “Havana Affair”, “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue”, “Rock N’ Roll Highschool”, “I Wanna be Sedated”, “I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You”, and the HEY-HO-LET’S-GO all-time anthem “Blitzkerieg Bop”. The Misfits + Ramones acoustic set by Michale Graves in other shows on the Blitzkerieg tour was missing, which was a huge disappointment because you can tell from Graves’ solo album and his live videos that he has pushed his music to a whole new level with his acoustic guitar.
The faulty stereo system was another disappointment. When the show began, all you could hear was the instruments’ sound but no words from the microphone. Graves tried to remedy the situation by signaling the sound technician. Unfortunately, the sound technician couldn’t get Graves’ signals, and he had to rush onto the stage during the performance so that Graves could whisper into his ear. It was a shame that there was no obvious improvement afterwards. You would also expect the sound level of the drums would be raised since this was a Marky Ramone-fronted gig. But that, frustratingly, didn’t happen, either.
Despite all the awkward moments of the gig, a few headbangers at the front row did help heating up the crowd. Some even tried to start a mosh pit, though they failed.
Review by Sylva Lam
Photos by May Lam