John 5 has built a name for himself as being the guitarist for David Lee Roth, Marilyn Manson, and Rob Zombie, as well as having his own solo career consisting of seven studio albums. His albums follow a similar path to guitarist Buckethead in their somewhat unpredictable manner. They consist of styles such as metal, rock, country, and jazz. They also feature a wide array of many guest musicians and he is not afraid to throw in the occasional cover song. So it was a surprise to me to find out that I would be attending John 5’s first tour as a solo artist. I thought he would have been doing these for years now, but as he explained during the show, he was not sure if anyone would show up for a night of instrumental music with him on guitar as the main focus.
The crowd made their voices heard by selling out the legendary Whisky on a Wednesday night. The crowd was a mix of people who are fans of instrumental music (sporting Steve Vai and Joe Satriani shirts) as well as Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie fans. The excitement could be easily felt as everyone was anxious to see what the show would consist of (myself including, seeing as I had previously only seen him perform one song live at Ozzfest as a guest musician of Static-X).
I arrived late, so I unfortunately missed the opening band Tigrilla and can’t review them. I will however give them a fair chance by listening to their Bandcamp page.
The first band I caught was Dioxide. They were a two piece band consisting of just drums and guitar. The drummer kept a steady beat while the guitarist played an assortment of classic metal riffs with the occasional shredding. He did a good job of getting the crowd into the music with his stage antics and off stage antics (as he played in the middle of the crowd thanks to his wireless system). Even when the guitarist had technical difficulties, the drummer was able to hold things down with an improvised solo, and by the end of the set, everyone wanted to grab a business card.
The second band was one of the main reasons I was there: My good friends in Level Se7en. My band played with them at Bar Sinister, and we’ve kept in contact since. I heard a lot of people in the crowd wondering before the set what they were going to sound like. Once Level Se7en started, there were no more questions and there was plenty of headbanging. The rhythm section held everything down in a calm and collected fashion, letting the music do the talking. Most eyes were on lead singer Liz, as she engaged the audience and had people singing along with the choruses (even if they were hearing the songs for the very first time). She incorporates a lot of interesting techniques such as using a megaphone during certain songs and using the distance of the microphone to create natural swells. Most impressive was her ability to scream vocals without the use of the microphone and still have them be audible from where I was standing. For the crowd that was there spotting the Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie shirts, this was a nice balance after the previous all instrumental set by Dioxide.
The third band was one that I was unfamiliar with, but they had played with John 5 the previous night and let their name known with banners on the side. State Line Empire was similar in idea to Level Se7en with their straight forward metal songs, but definitely took it in a different direction. The riffs had a little more southern twinge to them, the guitarist had a mask that lit up while wearing his hood for a creepy effect, and the singer was very comfortable as he engaged the audience without having to move much. His voice actually reminded me a lot of the singer of Jolly, in his ability to go from smooth vocals to ones that were rough and almost growled. His posture created a hypnotic effect as the rest of the band rocked out as hard as they could. I saw a lot of movement in the crowd and could see people who were familiar with them as well as people who were now glad that they had become familiar with them.
Finally, John 5 took the stage, which was decorated with banners to the side and a bendy looking drum set which definitely added to the effect. The members all came out with face paint and black clothing, and John took center stage and smiled creepily to the audience. He began his set which contained as much diversity as his albums did. Starting with some heavy tunes to demonstrate his shredding ability, he eventually moved on to songs to show his diversity and knowledge in other genres (unfortunately I am not familiar with his song titles so I can not say which the names of the songs in particular). For instance, he moved on to a Flamenco style song, a country and bluegrass style song, and did a long improvised guitar solo that had a main theme that he would eventually come back to after impressing the crowd for minutes. He did go back to some heavy songs before going back to some more country and bluegrass style songs, and the crowd couldn’t help but be wowed at his ability to effortlessly move from genre to genre without missing a beat. His backup band were no slouches either, as the bassist (a young musician from MI) had plenty of amazing bass solos and the drummer Rodger Carter (who has played on John’s solo albums) had incredibly tasteful fill ins that had people shouting out “Oh!” each time. Towards the end of the set he threw in a cover of “Beat It” by Michael Jackson which got the crowd singing along (even though he played the melody on guitar). After that was a very special moment, as John introduced two guests to the stage: Michael Anthony from Van Halen and Piggy D from Rob Zombie’s band. Together they covered Van Halen’s “Somebody Get Me a Doctor” with Michael on vocals and bass and Piggy D on backup vocals. The crowd went absolutely wild and John even said he didn’t know how he was gonna follow that. Finally, he admitted there would be no encore and went into the last song, which was a medley of classic heavy metal riffs that had the crowd screaming at each song they knew. All in all, the set was incredibly balanced for an instrumental show. John went most of the set without talking, allowing the songs to flow as one. When he did talk, he was so humbled by this whole experience. He threw out his guitar picks to the crowd gladly, and had a guy in masks throw out other assorted goodies. For his first solo tour, he handled it like he has been doing this forever. Hopefully that means it will not be the last time.
John 5 and The Creatures Setlist:
01. Flight Of The Vulcan Kelly
03. This Is My Rifle
06. El Cucuy Interlude
07. El Cucuy
08. Jiffy Jam
10. Portrait Of Sidney Sloan
11. Guitar Solo
12. Six Hundred & Sixty Six Pickers In Hell
14. Mad Monster Party
15. Young Thing
16. First Victim
17. Feisty Cadavers
18. Beat It (Michael Jackson cover)
19. Somebody Give Me A Doctor (Van Halen cover, with Michael Anthony and Piggy D)
20. Covers Medley