Guitarist John 5, with Special Guest Marty Friedman, Livened up The Loft in Atlanta, Georgia, on Wednesday, February 21, 2024

John 5 Rocks Center Stage Theater in Atlanta: A Night of Guitar Mastery and Unforgettable Performances...

 

Words and Photos: Elliott Gordon

@PlacemarkPhoto

 

The historic Center Stage Theater in Atlanta, Georgia, played host to iconic guitarist John 5 on an unseasonably warm Wednesday night in the South. Built in 1966 to honor Atlanta’s performing arts community and to memorialize Helen Lee Cartlidge after she and 100 other arts patrons perished in the Orly plane crash of 1962, this three-venue facility has been a live performance destination for nearly six decades. With fellow guitarist Marty Friedman now in tow, John 5 and The Creatures leveraged The Loft space, an intimate and industrial-feeling 650-capacity venue within Center Stage for this latest tour stop.

Arguably best well-known for his decade-long stint as a guitarist for Megadeth (1990-2000), Friedman and his band took to the stage at 8:20pm to kick off their first night supporting John 5. Backed by charismatic Japanese musicians Chargeeeeee (drums), Naoki Morioka (guitar), and Wakazaemon (bass), the colorful Friedman immediately unleashed his guitar-shredding prowess in front of a capacity crowd.

If you’ve never caught Friedman and his band live, you are really missing a treat. Guitar aficionados flock to watch Friedman masterfully perform “Tornado of Souls” off Megadeth’s 1990 release Rust in Peace, but Morioka, Wakazaemon and Chargeeeeee are fantastic musicians in their own right. In fact, there may not be a more entertaining drummer on the plant than Chargeeeeee, who is the living embodiment of Animal from the Muppets. Playing his kit barefoot, he slams the skins like he is trying to punch a hole through them, all-the-while emphatically encouraging the crowd to celebrate Friedman.

Taking a momentary breather, Friedman announced to the crowd mid-set that he recently wrapped up his new album, which he mentioned was scheduled to come out his summer. He teased that release by playing a track he joked “doesn’t even have a name yet,” but the working title, much to the crowd’s delight, was now “Atlanta Rock City.” Following, the band was then interrupted twice on stage by a drunk woman who seemingly had no problem eluding the venue’s apparent weak security. While a bit unnerving in the moment, Friedman shook it off and surprisingly proceeded to welcome a random fan named Liz up from the crowd to play guitar and jam with them for a song. After receiving a hug from Friedman, Liz was escorted off and the band wrapped up their enthusiastic and nearly hour-long set with “Kaze ga Fuiteiru,” a track off Friedman’s 2021 album, Tokyo Jukebox 3.

At the conclusion of the equipment change and subsequent unveiling of John 5-logoed video screens, the house lights dimmed at 9:40pm to “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath. Backed by drummer Alejandro (Alex) Mercado, the immediately recognizable John 5, dressed in his signature white cloak, took to the stage and launched into “Season of the Witch.” At 53-years-old, John 5’s career resume is as impressive as it gets, collaborating with such major artists as David Lee Roth, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, and most recently, Mötley Crüe. However, until you experience his solo show live, you really don’t have an appreciation of his extraordinary charm and talent.

Watching John 5 perform solo for nearly a solid hour and a half was nothing short of exhausting. With songs like “Que Pasa,” “Strung Out,” “Cactus Flower,” and “I Am John 5,” the audience was treated to his amazing genre-crossing skills, from majestic arpeggios to poignant banjo picking, while performing on a wide range of regular-sized guitars to mini guitars to bass guitars.

When not stalking around the stage, John 5 actively engaged with his adoring fans pressed up against the barrier. His showmanship was on full display, highlighted by continuing to play with his left hand while shaking hands in the front row with his right, and at one point he even grabbed someone’s cell phone to capture video of himself performing. John 5 shows are also never short on props, whether he’s using a toy ray gun to play his bass guitar, inviting a crew member to join him on stage in a giant John 5-designed head mask, or polishing off the night with large white John 5-branded balloons released into the crowd.

The most enjoyable segment of the evening was when John 5 offered up that it was “time to get weird” and pounded through an extended medley of Mötley Crüe song chords including “Live Wire,” “Shout at the Devil,” “Dr. Feelgood,” and “Kickstart My Heart”. With his guitar tech joining him on stage to play bass, John 5 also delivered crowd-requested teases of Rob Zombie and Van Halen songs as well. He then closed out his exhilarating set with “Land of Misfit Toys” from his latest solo release, Sinner (2021).

Following stops scheduled in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, John 5 will conclude his solo tour on Friday, March 1, in San Diego, California, at The Observatory North Park. If you live along this final stretch of dates, do yourself a favor and catch him live before he rejoins Mötley Crüe for their summer run. John 5 solo is a must-see experience, delivering an enjoyable night of riffs and reverence.

https://john-5.com

 

John 5’s 2024 Tour Dates:

01/26 – Santa Ana, CA @ The Observatory

01/27 – Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey Theater

01/28 – Las Vegas, NV @ Count’s Vamp’d

01/30 – Colorado Springs, CO @ Sunshine Studios

02/01 – St. Charles, IL @ Arcada Theater

02/02 – Turtle Lake, WI @ St. Croix Casino

02/03 – Green Bay, WI @ Epic Events Center

02/04 – Kansasville, WI @ 1175 Event Center

02/06 – Angola, IN @ The Eclectic Room

02/07 – Harrison, OH @ The Blue Note

02/08 – Cleveland, OH @ The Winchester Music Tavern

02/09 – Flint, MI @ Machine Shop

02/10 – Columbus, OH @ The King of Clubs

02/12 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Jergel’s Rhythm Grille

02/13 – Lititz, PA @ Mickey’s Black Box

02/14 – Derry, NH @ Tupelo Music Hall

02/15 – NYC, NY @ Gramercy Theater

02/19 – Leesburg, VA @ Tally Ho Theater

02/20 – Greenville, SC @ Radio Room

02/21 – Atlanta, GA @ The Loft @ Center Stage

02/23 – Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall

02/24 – Dallas, TX @ Granada Theater

02/25 – Tulsa, OK @ The Shrine

02/27 – Denver, CO @ Oriental Theater

02/28 – Albuquerque, NM @ Sunshine Theater

02/29 – Mesa, AZ @ The Nile

03/01 – San Diego, CA @ The Observatory North Park

 

Marty Friedman Band

Marty Friedman – Guitar

Chargeeeeee – Drums

Wakazaemon – Bass

Naoki Morioka – Guitar

 

https://www.martyfriedman.com/

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