JAKE E. LEE’S RED DRAGON CARTEL
Virgin Oil Co, Helsinki
REVIEW AND PHOTOS BY MARKO SYRJALA
Jake E. Lee’s return to the music scene was one of last year’s biggest news stories from the music world. The former Ozzy Osbourne and Badlands guitarist has been nowhere to seen for the best part of the past 25 years but now he’s finally back with Red Dragon Cartel. The band released their debut album in January, and since then the band has been touring around the United States. European tour began in Italy in May and early June, the band finally arrived in Finland, where Jake has never previously appeared.
Virgin oil wasn’t sold out but there was approximately 250 people in the crowd when the band took to the stage and opened up with “The Ultimate Sin” followed by new album track “Deceived”. Red Dragon Cartel made a lot of headlines when they did their very first show last December in Whisky a Go-Go, Hollywood. Some reviews were positive but many claimed that the vocalist Darren Smith was totally the wrong man for the job and that he was completely out of tune through the set. I would say that now after seeing a man in action, there was nothing wrong with his singing or stage presence. He did a great job especially with old Badlands tunes and there was nothing wrong with the rest either. Let’s put it this way. It’s not too difficult to sing Ozzy tunes but definitely it’s not an easy task to do the Ray Gillen stuff live and Darren did it great with the right vibe. “High Wire” and “In a Dream”, dedicated to Gillen, were the definite highlights of the show.
Unlike what many guitarists of Jake’s caliber do, his band Red Dragon Cartel is not a super-group with well- known names, but a group of such unknown but talented musicians who are eager to prove that they belong in the legend’s band. Of course, bassist Ron Mancuso (Beggars & Thieves etc.) is an exception in the sense that he has been involved in the music scene since the beginning in the 80’s and in fact he is the man who actually managed to attract Jake back in business. The rhythm section of Mancuso and drummer Jonas Fairley was solid and Jake himself was in a very good form right from the start. It appeared that Jake really enjoyed being on stage again after a long break. Jake’s playing was technically very smooth, and there was also the right kind of “feel” on his playing. And that’s a thing which you can’t cheat. You either have it or you don’t have it but especially during jamming version of “Rumblin’ Train” you could almost touch “the feeling”. Just amazing work from Jake E. Lee.
Red Dragon Cartel’s debut album is definitely one of the better album releases of the year and when band did its second single ‘Deceived,’ it was very well received. A little later in the set, the band unveiled ‘War Machine,’ which is really like a Black Sabbath type of song, and the impressive ‘Shout It Out’ which featured again great vocals from Smith and some amazing licks from Mr. Lee. The fourth song from the album was the latest single “Feeder” which also closed out the body of their main set. It was great to notice that although it was obvious that the most of the crowd had never heard these new tunes they seemed to like what they heard.
Other standouts from the performance included the band’s performances of rarely performed “Sun Red Sun”, the Badlands favorite ‘’Shine On” and the show closing take on “Bark at the Moon”. All in all, the set list was just a feast for all the 80’s heavy metal/hard rock lovers but there was just one problem. The list was a way too short, only 11 songs, and there were many classics still missing from it. If I could decide, how about adding “Winter’s Call”, ”Dreams In The Dark”, “Silver Horses” or just anything from the third Badlands album DUSK. Also there’s room for more Ozzy songs as well. When the tour started the band used to play “Rock’n Roll Rebel”, which was now unfortunately dropped, but how about doing “Killer of Giants” or “Shot In The Dark”, which was maybe the biggest hit from Lee’s Ozzy era. I know that the band can’t do everything at once but hey, you can always hope if not more. Welcome back Jake !!!
Shout It Out
In a Dream
Sun Red Sun
Bark At the Moon
MORE PICTURES FROM THE HELSINKI SHOW !!!