An evening of guitar virtuosity was enough incentive to bring me back to one of the area’s nicest venues The old timey feel of the Sellersville Theater and the strict seating arrangements lent a feeling of a more focused than usual audience. Unlike my other time there, the pit area in front of the stage was occupied by tables and stools instead of a standing general admission audience. The handful of people who stood were along the sides and not necessarily any closer than where I was lucky enough to be.
Indeed, I was in for a show more-so than a sweaty (yet also fun) human avalanche.
The first band up, Dead Girls Academy, represents a second chance for frontman Michael Orlando, formerly Michael Vampire. The Victory Records band was, in truth, a little better than expected with a lot of sunset strip vibes but also some fairly impressive dual guitar harmonies. With more seasoning and more adventurous songwriting, they might have potential to grow.
Jared James Nichols was the main support and the biggest surprise of the night as I had absolutely no knowledge or expectations. They’re a very bluesy 3 piece anchored by Elvis (no, not that one) on bass and Dennis (from Sweden!) on drums, serving as the backbone for the impressive guitar work kind of bluesy singing of their frontman, the titular Mr. Nichols. There were definitely nods to some classic rock like an Allman Brothers lick here and there. At one point, someone from the crowd called out “Cat Scratch Fever” (there is a slight Nugenty resemblance) which Jared laughed off. This kind of tour seems like an ideal opportunity to get this band’s name out there in front of audiences who would appreciate their skills while also being different enough to stand out.
The stage received a facelift for the headliner. Inflatable Halloween characters adorned the stage, somewhat creating a carnival atmosphere. During the set, an odd creature would stagger out: robot, clown, etc. Along with flashing lights and the occasional light-up guitar further spiced things visually but six strings were what brought us out. Oh, and guitar picks that were handed out to some lucky concertgoers.
Thing started with drummer Logan Miles Nix and bass player Ian Ross warming things up while a killer robot helped set the mood. Then, John 5 himself came out and the fireworks began, starting with heaviness in the form of “Season of the Witch.” There were a few nods back into the catalog but a lot of the material drew from his latest full-length ‘Season of the Witch,’ which was fine by me. The other highlights were the new songs that have slowly rolled out on Youtube from his upcoming album. Newbies “Zoinks,” “Crank It” and…one more that I’ll mention further down in this review, all held up extremely well live and bodes well for the album as a whole.
Those who either were in attendance last time or heard the live album (this is the venue it was recorded at) may recall he did a medley toward the end. This year, the band had a brand new slew of songs:
Rush “Fly by Night,” Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirits,” The Knack “My Sharona,” The Police “Every Breath You Take,” Rob Zombie “Thunderkiss ’65,” Marilyn Manson “The Beautiful People,” Van Halen, some Metallica and Megadeth, Rage Against The Machine, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Soundgarden, Pantera, really, too many to list. There was also some Steve Vai-esque talking through the guitar. At various points throughout the evening, a few mini guitars were employed along with a banjo, all making brief appearances.
As has been customary, Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” had a prominent place in the set before John wandered out into the crowd for some soloing. At one point, late in the set, a young fan from the audience was even brought up on stage to tentatively strum on John’s guitar while Mr. 5 manipulated his pedal board to make some sounds.
Things ended with ‘I Am John 5,” a bold choice as it’s a new song but I certainly doubt that anyone left disappointed, as it had an inherent funkiness, speed and excitement to help empty the tank, so to speak.
An encore would have been great but as John said, he had to finish watching “Kiss Meets The Phantom,” something I think we can all respect.
Keep an eye out on www.john-5.com for more announcements, videos and news on that full-length and all happenings.
Words by: JJ Ellis