Ronnie Montrose Remembered –
The Yost Theater, Santa Ana, California USA, Saturday, January 21st, 2017
Set List: 1/12 /Politics/Rock Me To Sleep/We’re Going Home/Ready For Action/Town Without Pity/Wild Nights/Tupelo Honey/Rock The Nation/Good Rockin’ Tonight/Make It Last/Fire And Water/I Got The Fire/One Thing On My Mind/Open Fire/I Don’t Want It/Jump On It/Freeride/Space Age Sacrifice/Paper Money/Voyager/Matriarch/Connection/Frankinstein/Twenty Flight Rock/Space Station #5/Rock Candy/Bad Motor Scooter.
Now this was no ordinary night since we got a large array of former Montrose members, friends of the band and other guys ‘n’ girls paying tribute to various eras of Ronnie’s varied musical career.
It began with the host of the show and last frontman for Mr. M, Keith St. John showing us some footage on the video screen above the stage of him with the great man and a host of unseen photos too, many of which from his own personal collection or from Photographer, Ken Burton.
CJ Hutchins was the first man on the stage to with his acoustic guitar who warmed the place up with some delightful songs like ‘Rock Me To Sleep’ with Leighsa Montrose taking the spot next who talked to us about her later brother too and his love for music and art and creativity overall – very touching indeed.
Some people may not know that Ronnie stretched out his musical wings to other styles so in order to prove the fact some prog rock filled our ears that came from outfit called ‘Bonilla Crew’ feat. of course, Marc Bonilla of California Transit Authorty with a 3 song strong set that included ‘Ready For Action’ – and believe me, we totally were!
At long last I get to see one of my previous Interviews on stage who also fronted Soul Sign for a while – yep, Leatherwolf’s, Michael Olivieri alongside Keith St. John who played guitar on a killer rendition of ‘Wild Nights’ & the beautiful ‘Tupelo Honey’ that featured an incredible horn section with the extremely talented Katja Rieckermann on saxophone.
We then get furtherly spoilt when Dave Ellefson of Megadeth takes to the stage and tells us what Ronnie meant to him before booming his bass for us all on the rock and roll of ‘Good Rockin’ Tonight’ & the slow ‘n’ gutsy ‘Make It Last’.
‘One Thing On My Mind’ sees original Montrose member Mona join forces with Drummer, Roger Earl (Foghat) & Guitarist, Robert Sarzo (Hurricane) that was lit up vocally by KSJ – what a kickin’ bluesy number it was too – loved it!
That supergroup called ‘Brigade’ was something rather neat too with high calibre pros of Robin McCauley (former MSG Vocalist), James Kottack (formerly of Scorpions), Howard Leese (Heart/Bad Company) & Jason Boyleston (Paul Rodgers Band). A killer version of ‘Fire & Water’ guys – hope they tour soon….
Afterward ‘Brigade’ it was an interchanging line-up of musicians, some of which were frequent performers from Ultimate Jam Night from Whisky A Go-Go on a Tuesday night and many more special guests too. We got treated to one of the singers of Montrose who worked with him in 75 & 76 called Bob James who hadn’t performed these songs since including ‘Matriarch’ and a cover of ’Twenty Flight Rock’ later on that was a duet with Keith as well! It was a real joy for him to be up there and for the fans too – one of being Mr. St. John himself!
What about the young up and coming guitarist too going by the name of Michael Molenda or inclusions of legends like Chuck Wright, Rudy Sarzo, Frankie Banali, Michael Devin & the mid-blowing Debby Holiday with her emotional mind-blowing rendition of ‘Connection’. Night Ranger’s Brad Gillis blew us all away on a few numbers soloing so good like he’d done a deal with the devil decades ago.
There are a few different drummers talking hold of the sticks including Troy Lucketta (Tesla) who took care of the backbeat too for many great songs like ‘Space Age Sacrifice’, ‘Paper Money’ and most notably on the night ‘Frankenstein’ with Mitch Perry (MSG /Lita Ford) firing out some very tasty solos, mesmerising all in the theatre as well as some off the chain bass lick from Sean McNabb (of Lynch Mob).
Now there was literally only one way to finish off this fantastic event and that was with those famous three songs – no prizes for guessing them either! Yes I am talking about power blasting renditions of ‘Space Station No. 5’, Rock Candy’ (with Paul Shortino, Rudy Sarzo, Tracii Guns & Frankie Banali) and of course ‘Bad Motor Scooter’ with everyone on stage just about!
These all have Keith St. John on lead vocals and I've got to say that I was truly amazed how his voice never faltered one iota through the entire event. An absolute pro indeed to say the least.
Okay it was a long one and overran by over two hours but everyone on stage did Ronnie Montrose Proud! Here’s to the next one that’s happening in May!
Review By Glenn Milligan
Photographs by Ron Lyon & Glenn Milligan