CONCERT REVIEW: John 5 – Sticks N’ Stones Live at The Gramercy Theatre

The artist known as John-5 has had an impressive career playing behind David Lee Roth, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, and most recently has become a permanent member of  Mötley Crüe. He didn’t find himself playing in these positions because he could support anyone but because he is an amazing guitar player in his own right. Versatile is the word that best describes his style and his true talent lies in his ability to switch to any style needed, a musical chameleon if you will.  

John-5 recently brought his tour to the Gramercy Theatre in Manhattan and wowed those in attendance. 

The Gramercy Theatre is an old movie house owned by Live Nation with a capacity of 650 and is the sister venue to the larger Irving Plaza. Walking through a very thorough security check brings you two options; downstairs to the right are bathrooms, merch sales, a coat check, a bar and lounge and to the right are a set of double doors leading to the performance space. Inside is a bar on either side, stadium-style seats to the rear, and a set of box seats house left. The stage is well elevated and tall ceilings provide for excellent lighting and sound. Live Nation has clearly spent some money making this one of the best small performance venues around. Food is limited to a few bags of chips and popcorn, but this is Manhattan and you are a couple of blocks from some of the finest restaurants in the world.  Two blocks west is Madison Square Park with the original Shake Shack and a host of other options are available in any direction.

Touring in support of John-5 is a young band from Toronto called Sticks N’ Stones. Two brothers, Robert Lisanti on drums and Nicholas Lisanti on lead guitar and lead vocals, are joined by Brandon Gregory on guitar and bass player Luke Vasilakos to form a powerful, tight quartet. With a sound reminiscent of Deep Purple combined with Disturbed and a touch of 80’s Hair Metal, they play an energetic set that more than wakes up the crowd. If you are going on tour with John-5, you had better be able to play guitar and these guys were experts. Songs were punctuated with masterfully crafted solos that grabbed your attention and carried on but did not overstay their welcome. Singing was clear and precise and the whole band would harmonize well. At one point Gregory took over lead vocals with a delicious version of the Thin Lizzy song “Cold Sweat.” Never miss the opening act. Great bands all start as openers. Keep an eye on these guys. You will likely hear a lot more from them.

After a brief changeover, John-5 took the stage to the expected cheers wearing a leather jacket with the number 5 painted on the back, clearly labeling himself in case there was any confusion. After all, there was another master guitar player in the house, but more on that in a moment. Opening with “Season Of The Witch” and going into “Que Pasa,” he cut things short and apologized to the audience. He mentioned that there was a blown head and it took a few minutes for the technicians in the crew to change it out. Not wanting the audience to remember the songs the way they were played in a diminished capacity he simply started the set over from the top. This way everyone was able to hear the songs the way they were intended. This shows a true dedication to the quality of his art. 

Frenetic would be a good word to describe his style but flexible is also appropriate. Fast is his bread and butter, but being able to emulate almost any other musician makes for an entertaining evening. Country and Bluegrass are well within his reach as shown by his song “Howdy” and a cover of “How High The Moon” that would have made Les Paul and Mary Ford proud. Continuing on through the set, John-5 put on a clinic for aspiring guitar players and then paused. Explaining to the audience that he plays guitar for one man and has been inspired throughout his career by this person. He goes on to introduce his inspiration, Ace Frehley, who is attending the show. Now it’s clear why they have been playing KISS over the PA whenever there isn’t a band on stage. 

At this point, it is becoming evident that John-5 is having at least as much fun as the audience and he states that the technical problems in the beginning are forgotten as this is fast becoming one of his best shows. “Behind The Nut Love” is dedicated to Ace and a wonderful cover of Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” is followed by a medley of songs from what he called his new band Mötley Crüe. Encouraging the audience to sing along, a Cheshire cat grin spreads across his face as everyone joins in on ‘Home Sweet Home’. Not wanting the evening to end, he took a few requests solicited from those close enough to be heard but eventually union rules dictate that the evening has to come to an end. 

The tour will continue through the end of the month and end up in San Diego on March 1st.  Regrettably, Sticks N’ Stones will only make it as far as Rochester, but rest assured that any opener will feature amazing guitars.

Get tickets and buy music from John-5:

John 5 setlist:

  1. Season Of The Witch
  2. Que Pasa

Start Over

  1. Season Of The Witch
  2. Que Pasa
  3. Six Hundred And Sixty Six Pickers In Hell, CA
  4. Howdy
  5. Crank It – Living With Ghosts
  6. Zoinks!
  7. Strung Out
  8. Cactus Flower
  9. I Am John 5
  10. How High The Moon (Les Paul and Mary Ford cover)
  11. Constant Sorrow
  12. Behind The Nut Love
  13. Creepshow
  14. Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Queen Cover)
  15. Live Wire / Too Fast For Love / Shout At The Devil / Looks That Kill / Home Sweet Home / Wild Side / Girls Girls Girls / Same Ol’ Situation / Dr. Feelgood / Kickstart My Heart
  16. Sweet Dreams (Marilyn Manson cover)
  17. Detroit Rock City (Kiss cover)
  18. The Ghost