Ronnie Montrose Remembered, The Observatory, January 23, 2016
On January 23rd, 2016 all in attendance at The Observatory in Santa Ana, CA were treated to one of the best tribute shows in quite some time. Ronnie Montrose Remembered was a true All Star gathering of musicians influenced by the man himself. Many of the musicians had also played with Ronnie during his 40 plus year career. Keith St. John who at one time sang with Montrose assembled the collection of musicians who performed for the sold out crowd.
Opening the night was a long time Ronnie Montrose collaborator C.J. Hutchins, who performed among his short set ‘One and a Half’ from ‘Warner Bros. Presents. The main set began with Julian Coryell (Alanis Morrisette) performing ‘Open Fire’. Up next with Mitch Perry on guitar and Jeff Scott Soto handling the vocals was ‘FreeRide’ which Ronnie played on the original version during his time with The Edgar Winter Group. ‘Frankenstein’ followed that up. Next on stage was Marc Bonilla who performed a couple of tunes including ‘Starliner’ from ‘Paper Money’. Robert Mason (Warrant) joined Marc on the Gamma hit “Fight to the Finish‘. With Jeff Young (ex-Megadeth) on acoustic guitar, Keith St. John sang the Stones Classic ‘Connection’ which also appeared on the ‘Paper Money’ album.
The concert ramped up to the next gear as Keith introduced Brad Whitford (Aerosmith) and Derek St. Holmes (Ted Nugent). They then proceeded to tear into two songs from what is affectionately known as ‘The Great Eight’ the self titled 1973 Classic LP ‘Montrose’. Gilby Clarke (Guns N Roses) was on tap for his take on ‘Make it Last’ followed by Steve Stevens (Billy Idol) on ‘Rock the Nation’ which took care of four of the eight songs off the debut LP.
Guitar Player Magazine was on hand to introduce the two winners of the inaugural Ronnie Montrose Rock The Nation Award. Jess Araten and Geddy Franco were the winners who then along with singer Keith St, John performed ‘Spaceage Sacrifice’.
Not to be overlooked were the bass and drum combo of Brad Lang (Y&T) and Jimmy DeGrasso (Black Star Riders) who performed with many of the musicians at this event. They held down the fort in the classic style of Bill Church and Denny Carmassi. Also on hand was long time collaborator Ed Roth who played keyboards for most of the show. Other drummers included Chris Frazier (Foreigner), Jimmy Paxon (Stevie Nicks), Carmine Appice and Joe Travers.
Brad Gillis (Night Ranger) took the stage with a stellar performance of ‘Town Without Pity’ from Ronnie’s first solo album. ‘Voyager’ from the first Gamma record which was sung by Keith St. John who told the crowd it was his first time singing it. Jeff Young then returned for a go at the title track from ‘Paper Money’.
Doug Aldrich (ex-Whitesnake) and current guitarist with Keith St. John in the band Burning Rain belted out the opening chords of ‘I Got the Fire’ to a very enthusiastic crowd who were on their feet all night. Bass player David Ellefson (Megadeth) who also joined Doug, stayed for the continued onslaught of ‘The Great Eight’ songs with ‘Space Station #5’. Tracii Guns (ex-L.A. Guns) was next in line for the FM Radio classic ‘Rock Candy’. Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge) pounded the skins in true Carmassi fashion.
For the final song of the night Brad Gillis, Doug Aldrich, Gilby Clark and Jeff Young returned to close out the festivities with a solo laden version of the Sammy Hagar penned Montrose song ‘Bad Motor Scooter”.
Mixed in throughout the evening were trivia questions about the life and music of Ronnie. Those that answered the questions correctly received a free shirt tossed from the stage. The show was a great tribute to a great musician. Ronnie Montrose was that and more to the people he loved and who loved him. His wife Leighsa and her mom were on hand all night and thanked the crowd for being there to help preserve his memory. Kudos to Keith St. John for a well run show from start to finish. Three hours of music that was performed by Ronnie himself seemed to barely scratch the surface of this true legend.
(Review and Photos by Joe Schaeffer)
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