Heavy times at Lee’s Palace with John 5, Jared James Nichols and Dead Girl’s Academy

Staff photographer Andrei Chlytchkov’s latest assignment was to grab some pictures of the Invasion 2019 tour at Lee’s Palace in Toronto on March 23. Text by L. Benny Sanders.

Lee’s Palace, always a great place to be, got a musical shake-up when John 5 brought guests Jared James Nichols and Dead Girl’s Academy from California on the Invasion 2019 Tour.

The Girls were on first with their brand of musical fun. These five guys were just having a party, and the crowd was in for every minute. They almost magically appeared on the stage and the concert goers were in from the first sound. They opened with “Medicine” and burst into “Forever” (the first two tracks on their 2018 CD Alchemy) without a breath in between, following up with “No Way Out” from the same album.

These guys know how to harmonize. Lead vocalist Michael Orlando told me that he has been to Canada with previous bands (including Vampires Everywhere) and that he loves touring here.

Pounding drums began their fourth tune, “Too Late”, an anti-Valentine song “You are one of many in and out this revolving door” inspired by a February 14th break-up. The final two numbers featured double guitar solos (“Cannibal” and “I’ll Find a Way”) and brought the set to a close with a thundering response from the fans.

Jared James Nichols, accompanied by his band Elvis (bass) and Dennis (drums) kicked the hell out of the audience from the beginning. Opening with “To Tell the Truth” there was no doubt that we were in for a time. Nichols plays an Epiphone Les Paul (he christened it “Old Glory”) with no pick in hand. Most guitarists go into panic mode without one (although I never use one except when playing bass, but I’m just a drummer) even if they have to use a metal coin as a substitute. Watching Jared play his style of rockin’ blues was an evening in itself.

A father and son that I talked to during the set were there just to see this trio. He told the crowd that “it feels good to be in Toronto” and remarked to me later that he loved playing for this packed house at Lee’s and could feel the amazing energy in the air. Nichols made me think of a mix between SRV and Ted Nugent with Peter Frampton thrown in. When I told him this, he was very politely grateful for my compliment, but dang, this is a guy who has opened for ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

We heard rockin’ blues, funk and kick-ass jammin’ but something unexpected (that we should have expected) was Nichols’ version of the Mountain classic “Mississippi Queen”. I still can’t get that one out of my head. The band closed the set with “The Gun,” Jared’s “interpretation of delta blues for the 2000s” after which he invited the audience to come and say hello to him.

As “John 5” was about to appear, the stage went crazy with clips of old movies: Godzilla, zombie flicks and Psycho. In the darkness, a stampede of guitar notes bowled us over while the flashing screens burned into our brains. John 5 took his place on the altar set up for him centre stage and took control.

J5 (guitarist for Rob Zombie) and his band “The Creatures” gave a performance that could not be properly described in anything less than a book . This guitar virtuoso has played with David Lee Roth, Marilyn Manson, and Canada’s K.D. Lang, to name a few and all three members of the band are amazing at what they do.

The first twenty minutes was a non-stop high-energy wall of sound and effects. When John finally spoke, it was as if we’d all been in a trace that he broke with his voice. John’s guitar work is almost indescribable except that it sounds like he has more than two hands and an extra brain running just to produce what is heard. He played driving gothic rock, ultra-progressive jazz, and some bluegrass just to shock us once more with the talent we were faced with. John told us that one of the tracks was being recorded live for his upcoming album, and later suggested that he might just use the entire concert, a nod, and compliment to the crowd for their enthusiasm.

There was no standing still for this set, which included a medley of everything from Metallica, Iron Maiden, Kiss and ACDC to Queen (look on Youtube for a sample of it) and J5’s version of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” John cycled through an endless array of guitars (even a banjo!), costumes and masks during his time on stage. At one point Jack Nicholson’s” face appeared on screen in the classic scene from The Shining” to intrduce the headline (i.e. “Heeeeeeeeeere’s Johnny!”). Cute.

All in all, one hell of an evening at Lee’s Palace. The next time he hits Toronto, you wanna be there.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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