John 5 – Warrendale, PA – 2/12/2024

I called it a manic Monday because the day after the big game was full of options for live music in Pittsburgh.  The Crafthouse Stage & Grill hosted Enuff ‘Z Nuff and Bad Marriage who were making a brief departure from their tour with Glenn Hughes, and Jergel’s showcased the return of John 5 who is currently on the road solo again while on a break from his new gig with Mötley Crüe.

We arrived at Jergels in time to catching an up and coming supporting act out of Toronto called Sticks & Stones which features bothers Nickolas (vocals and lead guitar) and Robert (drums) Lisanti, along with Luke Vasilakos (bass) and Brandon Gregory (guitar). The join John 5 following a recent string of dates with Liliac and an upcoming run with Marty Friedman that begins on February 21st.

In follow-up to their 2021 EP “Rev It Up,” Sticks & Stones is releasing a new album with producer Johnny K. They describe themselves as harder and heavy rock combined with metal riffs, and come off sounding like a a punk-edged, heavier version of the Skid Row.

With some surprising bay-area quality shredding from frontman Nickolas that we weren’t anticipating from a lead singer or a band that was giving off Ramones vibes at times. But then we learned that they have supported the likes of everyone from Nita Strauss and Buckcherry and collaborated with members of Joyous Wolf and Ryan Roxie from the Alice Cooper band, and it all made sense.  I’m sure this isn’t the last we will hear from Sticks & Stones. You can preview their single for the song “River” here.

With his new band being a household name, and his career of more than thirty years as one of the most distinct guitar players for hire, I doubt it is necessary to introduce John 5 to my readers.  He’s performed with Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson, and Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford, and is now joining Mötley Crüe following the retirement of Mick Mars, so I think you know of him.

Unfortunately, timing has prohibited us from catching John with Rob Zombie.  So, my first encounter with John 5 was on the Megacruise out of Los Angeles back in 2019 where I worked with him as a photo experience “meet n greet” photographer before he caught the attention of the San Diego police for breaking noise ordinances on the pool stage while in port.

John 5 & The Creatures could later be found touring theaters in support of Queensryche just before COVID lockdown halted things.  And then, a year ago we had the exciting experience of catching John 5 performing his second of two Atlantic City, NJ shows with the legendary bad boys in Mötley Crüe.

I give you the history because it illustrates the genre-bending versatility of this phenomenal talent, whether it’s Hee Haw or Hair Metal, he can hang with best.  With a backdrop of horror film clips from scary dolls to the film that coined the phrase “Here’s Johnny” to the sweet melody of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” John 5 doesn’t even come close to conforming to shock rock or any norms for that matter.  He tells the crowd to “get weird” and it not only works, you can’t look away for fear of missing something cool like a neon laser gun during his bass performance or the banjo he attacks with the same love as his signature Fender Telecasters.

So with sparkling pyro, bouncing balloons, and a life size John 5 head dancing around the intimate venue, it was a very memorable and very intimate evening.  We were forewarned that the set lists were laminated because John will draw on any blank paper he can find. So you aren’t likely to find much deviation from show to show on paper, but given that John uses the microphone to talk to the crowd, there was lots of room for improvisation and requests along the way.

As you’d expect the set included instrumental favorites like “Que Pasa,” “Crank It,” and “I Am John 5,” but the previously mentioned “Imagine” was one of many additions, most of which were crowd requests or attempts to stump the guitar, bass, and banjo playing savant.

Since the last time I saw John 5 & The Creatures, exactly four years ago to the day the band has gotten a bit smaller with the departure of Ian Ross (bass), with John going another direction and taking on bass duties himself at times but mostly keeping the show just guitar and drums.

And later, John invited his tech to join him and drummer Alejandro Mercado for a newly added and very appropriate medley of Mötley Crüe riffs to really kick things into gear.  Of course, he had had our attention long before he tore things up with “Too Fast for Love” and “Shout at the Devil,” but it sure was fun watching his grin as we all pounded fists and sang along.  It was almost as fun as watching the magic when the perfect match of John 5 and Nikki Sixx performed this songs together at my first Motley Crue/John 5 show this time last year. And, in the tradition of kicking @ss in February, check out the remaining dates on this tour below…

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Watch for more festival coverage like Rokisland Fest as well as local shows including Extreme, Lynch Mob, and The Guess Who this past month.  And, in March, you’ll find us on the Monsters of Rock Cruise, and in May, you’ll find us at the M3 Rock Festival in Baltimore.

Coverage by Editor and founder Kara Marie Uhrlen on 2/14/2024.  All event photos by Kara Uhrlen and The Pure Rock Shop.