John 5 & The Creatures @ Jewel Nightclub ~ We’ve Got The Performance AND a Special Interview!
Manchester, NH in early March ~ not exactly the typical setting for monsters to be out and about, but then again, John 5 and The Creatures aren’t your typical monsters, so they recently added a tour stop at Jewel Nightclub to their itinerary and emerged from the wintery shadows to give us and the rest of the packed house a night none of us will soon forget.
Without abandoning his trademark theatrical stage presence and appearance (which read as an authentic part of his persona that elevate the overall performance experience, not as an ill-fitting, costumey gimmick that distracts from it, as it does with so many other musicians/bands), guitar virtuoso John 5 and his band “The Creatures” ~ Rodger Carter on drums and Ian Ross on bass ~ brought an eclectic and masterful mix of music, from rock and metal to classical, bluegrass, samba and more, to the stage. Best known for his heavier “hired gun” work with industry giants including Marilyn Manson and the incomparable Rob “Motherfucking” Zombie, John 5’s solo work can not only stand on its own, it can ~ and did ~ walk on stage and kick the fuck out of anyone lucky enough to be in the room.
J5 rips earsdrums and blows minds with his technical expertise, the diversity in his repertoire, and his consummate showmanship, none of which are on display at anything less than an “…It goes to 11” setting during his performances. Showcasing the blistering riffs and solos he’s best known for and that never fail to amaze, on this solo tour J5 offers the audience a glimpse deeper into his musical soul, further back to his musical roots that included the country/bluegrass/”Hee Haw” style that influenced him as a child, the compositions of the classical masters which he has admired for as long as he can remember, and the Latin picking he began to appreciate and incorporate into the musician he is today. Completely dispelling the misconception that a make-up and costume wearing hard rock/metal guitarist can’t possibly be a gifted, well-rounded, multi-faceted, “real” musician of the highest order, John 5 showcased the complexity of his musical talents ~ a potent force that, no matter which style was front and center at which moment ~ rocked every inch of Jewel from floor to ceiling and beyond ~ with such expert ease that every single one of us in attendance couldn’t help but be in awe of what we were experiencing.
Rodger and Ian are the perfect accompaniment to John 5, not just keeping time but, more importantly, contributing to the depth of music and appropriately embellishing its texture and the ambiance each song needs to create. Both musicians are, as they would have to be in order to share the stage with J5, ridiculously talented in their own right, seeming to help create the music that so entrances the audience while simultaneously and falling under its spell. John 5, too, has the can’t-quite-be-defined ability that allows him to create and be affected by what he is creating at the same time; watching all three performers individually and as a group is a revelation in authenticity, as none is able to separate himself from the music, a quality that in turn pulls the audience even deeper into the performace.
Further proof of John 5’s talents lies in what his solo tour doesn’t have: a singer. So captivating is J5 as an instrumentalist that the absence of a vocalist was never felt; not once did we think to ourselves that “If only there were a singer and some lyrics….” When brought to a level of near perfection, music alone can speak for itself ~ sometimes more powerfully than if it were accompanied by words ~ and to say John 5 has perfected his craft would be a gross understatement. The songs from his latest solo effort, Careful with that Axe (about which we had the chance to interview J5 right after the album’s release), flow and groove as any good track should, and J5 never falls prey to “Must show off now” syndrome; the needs of the songs always take precedence in J5’s writing, and he never permits his undeniable prowess ~ which he could so easily let loose to take over the spotlight ~ to overshadow the overall balance of the song.
At its core, music of ANY type is about emotion, and there is no musician from any genre who writes and performs with more feeling than John 5.
Do whatever you have to in order to see John 5 & The Creatures on this instrumental tour, and download a copy of Careful With That Axe via any of the usual respected outlets or directly from J5’s official website. And after you check out some photos from this incredible night, we’ve got a little something extra ~ an interview with J5 right before he took the stage and started the show. So we thank you all for being part of the FlashWounds extended family, Ms. Nancy Sayle for being that and a whole lot more, and John 5 for always making time for us and for being gracious, honest, entertaining, and a true artist.
John 5: The Interview
“Oh my God, today is March 5th! March 5th, 1954, Universal Studios releases The Creature from the Black Lagoon…it’s the Creature’s birthday today!” John 5 declared with a mixture of nostalgia and almost child-like excitement. Now, why were we privy to this birthday announcement? Because, huddling as close as possible to the dressing room space heater doing its best to keep the freezing cold at bay, almost as though it were trying to protect the musical genius who was bundled up inside, we were able to have a quick chat with J5 before it was time for him and The Creatures to transition into performance mode and for us to watch, listen to, photograph, and just absorb ~ more than slightly in awe, as usual ~ what was being presented to us from the stage.
FW: So…are you having fun?
J5: I’m having so much fun I can’t even tell you. I mean, it’s so different. It’s a cool show because there are so many different styles of music on display that if you get tired of one thing we switch to a different style, there’s a lot of stuff going on.
FW: Is it true that you are funding this tour personally ~ no label backing?
FW: Did that financial element add a significant amount of stress and was it a major consideration as you were putting the tour together?
J5: We booked the first bunch of shows on the West Coast and [in the] Southwest and the reception was so amazing…it was going so well and there was such a high demand from the Midwest and Northeast the I said, “Yeah, let’s do it.” Rob [Zombie] was in the middle of doing his new film 3I and he thought it was a great idea, so it was just good timing.
FW: You have an enviable career as a “hired gun” for a remarkable hard rock/metal artist and are best known, even from your solo releases, for playing the genres on the heavier side of the musical spectrum. Your latest album, Careful With That Axe, however, is defined by a maturity and diversity of sound that many would consider a surprising departure from the only style with which they associate you. Did the departure from your “norm” come first or did the idea to do this tour lead to your cultivating some different musical styles?
J5: Careful with that Axe is a very live album. We played all the tracks live in the studio and it came out so well that I thought, “God, why don’t we just go out on the road and do that?” The timing and feel was just perfect.
FW: Once you made the decision to head out on the road, did you have that moment of realization/panic that you’d be out there on stage playing your own stuff on your own tour completely on your own merits? Were you ever nervous that you’d be performing for empty houses now and then?
J5: Actually, yes. I mean it wasn’t so much that I thought no one would come, but I was wondering WHO would want to come out and hear all this crazy stuff. I mean. there’s Flamenco, there’s Western Swing, there’s heavy stuff…I wasn’t sure if people would be into it but everyone’s really been digging it. It’s a pretty amazing feeling and it’s been a great time for me.
Having seen the show, we can honestly say it was a great time for us as well, and will be for those who appreciate all types of music as long as they are played with passion and by masterful hands.
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