John 5 is one of those musicians that quietly dominates the stage. His guitar is not quiet, but often his demeanor is, as he is known to hide behind masks and makeup, often not uttering a word the whole performance, letting his guitar speak for him while on stage. Though he has gotten a lot of attention over the years, he is not the first guy jumping up volunteering to give interviews, as he has often allowed musicians such as David Lee Roth, Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson to get the limelight, quietly dominating the stage with his guitar behind them.
Though it may appear as if he likes to lurk in the shadows, donning scary masks, often hiding his real identity with stage techniques, on his recent tour, he has stepped forward to own his skills and make people truly aware of the talent he possesses. Though many know he has talent – he must if he works with Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie – it is on this solo mission that he owns the limelight himself. Stepping forward to tear up the stage by himself, his stage performance is truly a wonder, as he showcases talent that crosses over nearly every musical genre.
Denying vocals on the tour, John 5 lets his guitar speak for him. He has a drummer and a bassist to keep the beat alive, but he is the main star on the stage, wailing on his guitar as if he is a puppet master of the crowd. It’s not like a Buckethead concert, as John 5 puts little twists throughout the show, such as a having an evil clown that sprays the crowd with silly string.
Sure, there’s masks and creatures lurking about on stage, but isn’t that to be expected from John 5? He has always embraced the theatrics of stage, and his own tour is no exception to that. Between each song, there is a different surprise awaiting the audience, which makes it fun to watch, as you can’t help but wonder what will happen next.
Again, there’s no vocals. He tells the crowd that if they know the song, they should sing along. He played all kinds of favorites, from songs that he has worked on, to cover songs that many people know, allowing the audience to sub in for a traditional lead singer. What’s interesting to note is that he does not stick to one musical genre; instead, he bounces around, covering nearly ever genre in music, from country twang to hard rock and even softer sounds.
Not only does he play different genres, both covers and originals, but he creates a storyline with the music. Even though there is no lead singer telling people how they should feel, the music itself captures those traditional emotions, varying from country twang with some of that hard luck feel, sweeping the crowd up with slow romantic numbers, pounding them with thrashing beats, and luring them back into the dark abyss where only he knows what will come next building tension with a dark and slow impending doom, as if the audience is part of a horror movie, and something scary is coming. That is why John 5 is very much a puppet master, as he commands the emotions of the crowd through his music without the help of any vocals.
To close the concert, he says, “this is going to be the last song, as we don’t know any more,” which you can tell by his sly smile is a big, fat lie. He does a compilation of the biggest hits and random favorites that everyone in the crowd can identify, with riffs varying from AC/DC to Michael Jackson. The thing that was hilarious though, was the entire crowd broke out singing for one particular riff: “Roxanne, you don’t have to turn on the red light…”
Of all the songs he played, all the familiar rocking hits, Roxanne was the one that brought the entire crowd together to belt out the tune. Whether that was planned by John 5, or whether it just happened to be the crowd at the show who knew that song more than the hundreds of others, perhaps it’s a little influence from both. Still, one couldn’t help but laugh that the crowd of hardcore individuals gathered together in harmony for that song of all songs; not to say that it is a bad song, just that one would think people would sing any of the other popular songs that he played, and it’s interesting that that many people recognized that throwback of a song with only a few guitar strums and felt compelled to sing it at the top of their lungs for Easter, as at that point, it about midnight, which meant it was technically Easter in Detroit.
The Token Lounge was rather full with John 5 on stage. Perhaps, it was because it was a hometown show for him, and that’s why it was so crazy in there, but he definitely could have filled up a bigger location had he wanted to; that much is for sure. Unless you had been camped out long before he took the stage, it was nearly impossible to get to the front of the stage, and that says something about how many people are sweating and sliming up against one another in hopes of catching a glimpse of this famous guitar playing hometown hero.
If you’ve never seen John 5 dominating the stage, it’s worth checking out. No matter what type of music you like, he can not only play it, but play it with a passion that will move the audience. He might be the quiet type sometimes, but grandma always said, “it’s those quiet ones that you have to watch out for,” as those can sometimes be those most passionate, as is the case when it comes to John 5 playing guitar with a mastery that will suck in the audience and take over.
Marisa Williams earned her Master’s in Writing from the Johns Hopkins University and teaches at a college in Florida. She is the author of more than 100 books: www.lulu.com/spotlight/thorisaz. Also, check out www.twitter.com/booksnbling.