Nestled in Richmond’s Depot District is an unassuming stone building. The city’s first fire station, the building looks more like a historical landmark than a place to see some kick ass rock and roll. With an interior still sporting the firemans brass pole from the former sleeping quarters to downstairs and murals depicting various fire scenes, you would almost believe you were walking through a fire department museum. This was my first visit to The Firehouse BBQ and Blues, and hopefully not my last, as I came to see Jake E. Lee’s new band Red Dragon Cartel.
With the Kris Bell Band taking the stage to open, audience members were treated to some fantastic “American Rock” from this trio from Nashville TN. With a sound somewhere between Blackfoot and Skynyrd, it was refreshing to see a band just jam some good hard, original rock with a few classic covers thrown in for good measure. No disappointments from this band and I hope to catch them again as Kris told me he hopes to be back in this area in the next three to four months.
Randy, Zakk, Jake…there is a reason that when people speak about Ozzy it is broken down to guitarist eras of his solo career, and Jake E. Lee was about to come out and prove why he is a member of that very elite group and deserving to be a musician that will always be known as a “Guitar God”. While most widely known for his guitar prowess when he broke out on the Bark At The Moon album, Jake was also a member of an early incarnation of Ratt. On tour with his newest project, Red Dragon Cartel, Jake and company were about to set The Firehouse on fire, almost literally I believed at one point, but more on that later.
If you are a fan of heavily guitar driven rock, this is the band for you. Opening with the Ozzy/Jake classic “The Ultimate Sin,” Jake’s guitar playing sounded better (at least to me) than it did on the original while vocalist DJ Smith ripped into it and got the crowd worked up. Bassist Ronnie Mancuso kept the groove going along with drummer Jonas Fairley and together they kept a very tight rhythm all night. In all, the band played 12 of Jakes career-spanning songs. While people may not be as familiar with Jake’s post-Ozzy band Badlands as they are with his new material, the songs are spectacular all the same, and it was a thrill to hear them played live. These included “High Wire,” “Rumblin’ Train,” “Shine On,” “In A Dream” and “Sun Red Sun.” Mid-set, DJ and Jonas switched it up and traded places as Jonas took over vocals and DJ on drums and as Jonas belted out “Rock And Roll Rebel” before resuming their original roles. The Red Dragon Cartel originals played were “Deceived,” “War Machine,” “Shout It Out” and “Feeder.” The set was finished with a fantastic version of “Bark At The Moon.”
Jake’s playing was unparalleled. There have been few guitarists I have seen live that I have been in as much awe over. His playing, especially the solos, were better than I remember from the albums and were perfectly executed. Watching him play from just an arms-length away, it was mind blowing the speed at which he played while maintaining an insane amount of melody in the guitar. Jake also played loud. LOUD. As I sit here and write the day after the show, my ears are still ringing. That may have something to do with the fact that I stood next to one of Jake’s amps, but truly, I have no complaints. That amp brings me to what I mentioned earlier. At one point I truly thought the amp was going to catch fire as it made a crackling sound and began to smell a little more than warm. Jake also broke out some impromptu bottleneck playing as he took a glass salt shaker and used this for the bottle after pouring the salt out onto the stage. In all, you could tell he was having a good time and wanted to ensure the audience did as well.
This was a great introduction to The Firehouse, which holds around 200 and really has no bad place for viewing the show and I hope to catch more of what they have to offer in the future.