LIVE: Red Dragon Cartel, Islington Academy 06/06/14
Black Star Riders, Black Country Communion, and now Red Dragon Cartel… just what is it about the generic three word band name format that’s proving so alluring to modern day classic rock endorsed ‘super groups’? Where will it end? Pink Cream 69? Bluebottle Cock Trumpet? Oh wait, one of those has already happened (answers on a postcard).
Anyhow, tonight we’re in London Above, tiptoeing our way past The Angel Islington and seeking answers direct from the source. Former Ozzy Osbourne guitarist and reclusive guitar legend Jake E. Lee is in town, along with hired hands from the bands Warmachine, Black Betty and Beggars & Thieves, appearing respectively as vocalist DJ Smith, Jonas Fairley on drums and bass player Ronnie Mancuso, who also handled production duties on the band’s self-titled debut.
Surprisingly, only four tracks from the band’s current release appear tonight. The first is Deceived, a delicious slice of old school pie, complete with Lee’s furious tommy gun fretwork and a passable Ozzy Osbourne impersonation from Smith. War Machine follows, once again there’s a heavy Ozzy influence, but this time it’s the sound of Sabbath that’s brought to the fore.
The remainder of the set then switches away from Red Dragon Cartel’s own material and picks liberally from Jake’s post-Ozzy career in the band Badlands. Promotionally it’s a strange move, but one that keeps the rock rolling as tracks like High Wire, Shine On and Rumblin’ Train allow the band to strut and swagger with the confidence of thirty year veterans. Perhaps that’s the most pleasing thing on offer here, any question marks as to how an inexperienced line-up would connect with an unfamiliar audience are firmly put aside. The crowd tonight is kept engaged and entertained throughout.
Central to everything of course is Jake, and while bass and drum solos from The Cartel might feel a tad indulgent, when Mr Lee steps up to centre stage – as he does repeatedly – every note emerges as a lesson in guitar god #101. Time after time tonight we get the chance to witness true talent, and are reminded that you don’t replace Randy Rhoads and then hand the baton on to no lesser figure than Zakk Wylde without having some considerable ability of your own. Jake’s performance tonight is a tour de force of guitar play, breath-taking in both its impact and intricacy.
Tonight’s main set concludes with Feeder, a Red Dragon Cartel original that channels the mid-80s glam-metal Ozzy sound with which Lee remains best known into something more aggressive, industrial, and dare we say, a more contemporary, metal sound.
As you would expect the band encore with Bark at the Moon, an all-time classic from Ozzy’s Jake-era albums and the crowd go home happy. Overall, a highly impressive first UK showing for a band which, based upon tonight’s performance, promise bigger and better things. Now who wants to audition for lead triangle in Bluebottle Cock Trumpet?