November 27, 2009
John Knoll was born on February 9, 1965...ironically, that's the same exact day my Dad was born, BUT, my Dad is only a celebrity in my eyes...John Knoll, you might know best as the guitarist for DANZIG! John is a Baltimore boy, was born and raised in Maryland, went to Towson University & studied Jazz, but his claim to fame is hard rock guitar! He quit college to join Samhain and that eventually evolved into DANZIG. John played in DANZIG from 1987 until July 5, 1995, when John officially quite DANZIG, citing "A Breakdown In Communication within the band." as the reason he left DANZIG. The legendary BC Rich John played for the bulk of his Danzig years hangs proudly in the Hard Rock Cafe in Orlando & the guitar riff John will go down in rock history for is a simple, yet instantly classic song called "Mother" off the debut release from DANZIG.
"Flesh Caffeine" was John's debut solo release & it was put out in 1999. The CD features blazing guitar licks & John handles the vocals too when necessary! There's been a 10 year hiatus for John Christ live performances....John hasn't graced the world with a live stage performance in many, many years, & to the shock of many of his fans, John decided to end his live performance hiatus & do a live show in Baltimore on November 27, 2009, which happened to be the day after Thanksgiving & ironically, "Black Friday"! John was in town for the entire week to celebrate Thanksgiving with his Family & Friends & the notion that there would finally be a John Christ live performance brought out the Danzig fans to see this rarity!
The local openers for the night were ok...they typified local bands in this area...there's a reason why local bands remain local bands sometimes...there's decent players, but looks wise, or even sound wise, there's something missing, so they remain local rockers. I arrived at the club a little early & heard a soundcheck of "Mother" with a full band arrangement & the guitar playing I heard, it sounded like John Christ's playing, but I wasn't sure until I heard mutters in the club that John was going to jam with one of the local openers at the end of his set & "Mother" would be played as a full band at the end of the night with the local band as Johns' backing band!
John came out before his set, tested his pedal board, checked his amp set up & when he finally took the stage for his performance it was as if John went through a time machine & came out in the same era as Eerie Von these days. What I mean is, John used to have long flowing, pitch black hair & dark facial hair to match...these days, he's a little older, his black hair is now brown with a gray streak in the front ala Bonnie Rait & Alex Skolnick, his facial hair has a touch of grey in it & don't take this the wrong way, John doesn't look horrible, he's just a little older, looks wise, & if you were a fan of DANZIG back in the early years & saw the videos & pictures, you'll understand what I mean...it's just funny to watch your favorite players age right before your eyes & there was a moment or two where John almost reminded me of Dr. Satan from the Rob Zombie movies! On a playing level now, John's even better than I ever remembered! John was wearing a gray-ish colored t-shirt under a black button-up shirt that had a dragon on it, he was sporting leather pants which were adorned with a black belt that had a sideways cross for a belt buckle, & he had on a really cool pair of black boots with little pieces of metal on the heal.
The set list is hard to explain, but I'll do my best to try. John started his performance off like a guitar clinic; he had backing tracks & he played guitar over them & the first few songs were off his debut solo record, then the fun started when he went into a DANZIG medley! The Danzig medley was loose, if someone yelled out a song John would play it...the only request he didn't answer was when a drunk bimbo yelled out "Free Bird"! The Danzig medley started with "Twist of Cain" on electric guitar & continued for a bit with "Snakes of Christ" & "She Rides" & a tease of "Mother", but then the twist of the Danzig medley was that John strapped on an acoustic guitar & did part of it unplugged! The unplugged songs were "Killer Wolf", "Pain In This World", "I'm The One" John went into a small tease of "Pride & Joy" by Stevie Ray Vaughan & the crowd was so excited when he started it that John asked if they really wanted to hear the entire song, & when the crowd roared, John went for it & played ALL of "Pride & Joy" with the entire crowd screaming the lyrics over John's playing. John also performed a small tease of "Lenny" by Stevie Ray Vaughan, then went into "Scuttle Buttin" by S.R.V. & for his S.R.V. medley, he played the official S.R.V. Fender Strat, but during his cover of "Voodoo Chile", the Strat sounded crappy due to a problem with John's wah pedal, & at the end of the song John declared, "What do you expect, it's a Strat!" This was the only true flub of the night too! "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" was played acoustically & John dedicated it to his Mom, who was in the crowd, & if you listened closely, the ending of the song featured the acoustic ending from "Diary of a Madman" by Ozzy!
At one point someone yelled out "Cat Scratch Fever", so John played the opening licks of the song & started to laugh. There were a few more snippets of covers played throughout the night, but I'll be the first to admit, the show started after midnight & finished just before 2 AM when the bar closed, I was getting tired & I didn't scribble down notes as to what songs were performed, this entire review is from memory, but John gave the crowd a nice, lengthy, healthy dose of his playing, & it's definitely worth noting that he had been battling Laryngitis, so he was unable to sing, that's the reason he played the unplugged set & even though his voice was not up to par, he DID sing a little throughout the night, but his voice was very soft. "How The Gods Kill" was not listed on the set list, but it was yelled out from the crowd & John graciously played a minute or so of it & throughout the night John interacted with the crowd, talked to them, thanked them all, was very happy to be there & onstage, & the last 2 songs of the night featured John backed with a live band, local rockers Silvertung!
Silvertung's original material is a mix of Godsmack meets Disturbed, with slight elements of older metal mixed in...they started the jam with "Knockin' on Heavens Door" & the interesting thing to note was, John literally stood there for the first 1/2 of the song & did NOTHING....I was starting to wonder if John refused to play because of the "Heaven" reference, but then, when the 2nd 1/2 of the song started & the guitar solo was ready to start, John began whaling away & even singing along to the chorus! The interesting thing to note was, when the local band's lead guitarist played his solo, John played right after him & the 2 eventually did dueling solo's together & let me just say this...John played his ass off & smoked the other guitar player! The last song of the jam was "Mother", to which John started the song off & it sounded excellent, the backing band nailed it & the crowd was roaring for more when it was said & done.
John thanked the crowd & the band & took off towards the back of the club & at the end of the night, shortly before 3 AM, John & his family went home after his first live show in 10 years!
To offer up a pull quote that anyone who wants my opinion on the first official John Christ solo show was..."John Christ's debut solo live performance was a mix of guitar shred, melodic interludes, random DANZIG songs & it proved what a well-rounded musician he truly is...the fact that The Wizard of Oz theme song was performed in the same set as Stevie Ray Vaughan & Danzig numbers & that transition was effortless on John's part, it proves why John is one of the best guitarist in the hard rock genre!"