CONCERT REVIEW: JOHN 5 Let The Music Do The Talking At The Gramercy Theatre, NY (February 15th, 2024)

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While taking a hot minute break from touring with Mötley Crüe, John 5 is on a headlining tour crisscrossing the United States. The 30-date North American tour kicked off on January 25th in Santa Ana, CA, and concludes on March 1st in San Deigo, CA. Tonight’s show is in New York City at the Gramercy Theatre.

As the stage lights slowly rose, it revealed a minimalistic stage set-up: guitar and bass amps stacked neatly on each side of the drum riser with four 5-foot-tall video screens depicting macabre horror movies, cartoons, and images of John 5. From out of the darkest corner of the stage, John suddenly appeared and began frantically circling the stage. His ominous presence was felt throughout the nearly sold-out if not sold-out, theatre. Surprisingly, he was a little more low-key than usual, wearing a black leather jacket and jeans without his ghoulish white and black Joker-esque makeup. Another surprise was that there was no bass player, only drummer Alex Mercado.

Photo by Robert Cavuoto

Whether the crowd knew John 5 from Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, Mötley Crüe, or his successful solo work, they were all there to see this legendary guitarist in action. Listening to his albums or watching him on YouTube doesn’t do him justice compared to watching him perform live. Witnessing his masterful and complex guitar techniques in person was awe-inspiring. His playing style stretches the boundaries of rock, jazz, progressive, country, and blues…sometimes achieved in the same song. It was as if he was saying “I’m John 5 and you can’t ignore what I’m doing up here.”

At the show’s onset, John 5 realized he had blown one of his EVH amp heads; he briefly stopped to have it fixed, only to come back out to replay the first two songs. Fans might not have noticed, but John 5 wanted everything perfect!

Photo by Robert Cavuoto

John 5 performed for a little over 70 minutes and, within that time, tore through 15 songs, a bass jam, a mandolin jam, and a medley of Mötley Crüe tunes. The song performances ranged from the EDM of “Crank It” to the earthshaking of “Creep Show” to the shredability of “I am John 5.” All his songs were based on metal with melodic grooves and leads that featured his quintessential technique of string-skipped arpeggios.

Being a true showman, John 5 grabbed a bass from the guitar rack and his trusty Ray Gun for a remarkably great bass jam. These are the fun moments he brings to his show! Beforehand, I told John 5 that instrumental performances can sometimes have connotations of someone staring at their fretboard while meticulously playing a perfect piece of music. I asked how he makes his shows such an entertaining spectacle. He replied, “There are a lot of guys who bring their wives, girlfriends, or friends to a show, and I’m aware of that. I want to give someone who doesn’t know about the guitar to still have a good time. I use different instruments and have video screens on stage. I want it to come across as entertainment. It’s turning into an instrumental Alice Cooper show.”

Photo by Robert Cavuoto

Ace Frehley of KISS was in attendance, enjoying the show. John 5 told the crowd that Ace was the musical influence for picking up the guitar to pursue his dream of playing professionally. His touching comments from the stage humbled Ace, and he gave John 5 the thumbs up!

Tonight was a mind-altering, eye-opening, and guitar-gasmic experience for everyone at the Gramercy Theatre. Regardless of the song, the common thread throughout the performance was the passion and emotion John 5 applied to them. As an artist, he has honed and mastered his craft and delivered it to us, the fans, with heart and soul.

Tickets for his remaining shows can be found HERE.

JOHN 5 Photo Gallery (Photos by Robert Cavuoto):

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