It promised to be one of those shows that makes, or breaks. Jake Lee's band had blown it just a few night before in Hollywood, and new kid on the block Ethan Brosh was opening a show for a guy he readily calls one of his biggest guitar heroes. Another meltdown would sink the Red Dragon Cartel, and anything less than a grand slam would render Brosh just another opener.
San Diego's Brick By Brick is one of the premier rock clubs in the West, and even they were down a notch, having lost their liquor license. This wasn't looking good.
Thankfully, I can report that this was one of the best nights I've had all year. Brick By Brick was packed to the gills with none of the drunken stupidity that can render a metal crowd stupid, and both Brosh and Lee played sets that could easily be called blinders.
The Ethan Brosh Band is led by its namesake, a fiery and fleet fingered guitarist who is as much a serious composer as he is a chops-meister, and he's joined by his sister Nili, who is the hottest female guitarist I've seen since the days when Jennifer Batten was lighting up stages in Los Angeles in the '80s. While she is obviously playing the role of second guitarist in her brother's band, supplying solid metal rhythms, riffs, and magnificent harmonies, she's also providing tremendous support and you'll want to hear her soon to be released solo album.
Ethan Brosh has that thing - that undefinable, but undeniable thing called star power. He held the crowd of anxious Jake fans in the palm of his hand as he dealt ace after ace from his deck. Not many guitarists can command a stage with strictly instrumental work, but Brosh shows why he was picked to open up the last Yngwie tour with his strong compositional skills and his jaw dropping chops. Every tune could be hummed - they have verses, choruses, bridges, and it's easy to figure that his major at Berklee was songwriting. He's weaves endless amounts of melody into his memorable cache of riffs, and it's like a smorgasbord of rock.
He played cuts from both of his solo albums, the latest, Live The Dream, which will be released in May on Carmine Appice's Rocket Records, and the set's highlight was the duet Brosh recorded with George Lynch on his first solo release - Downward Spiral suffered not a bit in George's absence, as Nili picked up the slack and Ethan threw down chorus after chorus of memorable lines.
Brosh's set went down a storm with the sold out crowd, but it was clearly Jake E. Lee's night....
Jake E. Lee took a powder only matched by Garbo's. He had it all, and he walked away, not that you could blame him, after setting the 80s on fire with Ozzy and his own band, Badlands - if ever there was a case of it's time to go, Jake figured it out, and while we missed him, he missed little, and nobody could blame him.
The world went wild when we heard he had decided to 'reappear' in a cameo for his friend Ron Mancuso's band, Beggars & Thieves. The Internet lit up with news of Jake's return, which Lee says was no return at all, just a favor for a buddy. The video stated, "Jake E. Lee is alive well, living in Las Vegas. He would just rather play with Beggars & Thieves than deal with shady promoters and play Bark At The Moon 750 more times."
Well, he's not going to get his wish.
Red Dragon Cartel is the band that came out of this scenario - a scenario that included much song writing and recording, which can be heard on the band's excellent self-titled debut.
|Photo by Oscar Jordan|
Mancuso is playing bass, drummer Jonas Fairley ended up behind the kit after not getting the frontman slot, which went to Darren James (D.J.) Smith, who almost got ran out of town on the rails for showing up to the band's first show more than a little drunk, and more than a little belligerent. But hey, that's why he got the job - lead singers in rock 'n' roll bands don't come from Idol - they have tattoos, they drink, and they scream. Well.
The Internet was again alive as Smith got a well deserved roasting by those who want to see their old guitar hero Jake do well. The good news is that Smith showed up to the Brick By Brick in San Diego humbled, and convinced to right his egregious wrongs. He did so with much style and panache. Smith is a serious shouter who reminds me of a very feral Ian Gillan. He's being asked to sing songs sung by Ozzy, Ray Gillen, and Robin Zander (the band's first single, The Feeder) and being nervous, or even shit yourself scared could be understood by anyone with the nerve to stand in front of thousands with a microphone in their hand.
The band covered most of their debut record, a few chestnuts from Lee's past, and there wasn't a moment when the crowd was not in love. Smith's performance was far from perfect, but he'll get there with no difficulty - he's a charming rogue, and he is 100% rocker. He came close on everything he attempted, and it will only get better, that was quite clear.
The main point is that Jake E. Lee, as he told me last night, hadn't gotten fat, gone bald, or lost his skills - the solos were still often off-the-cuff and sizzling, his stage presence was warm and confident, and he has a style unlike any on the planet. The guy still has it in spades, and if he can get through a few more hundred Bark At The Moons, and some shady promoters, he's going to be riding this dragon from some time to come.
A totally triumphant return of one of rock 'n' roll's greatest 'lost soldiers.' Welcome home, Jake.
Don't believe me? Here's the whole show:
Red Dragon Cartel (Jake E. Lee) - complete show at Brick By Brick on YouTube
http://www.amazon.com/Red-Dragon-Cartel/dp/B00GC2KIK2 - Pre-order Red Dragon Cartel