Red Dragon Cartel – Club Quattro, Tokyo, September 16, 2015
After surviving their limo bursting into flames on a freeway in California, Jake E. Lee and his band Red Dragon Cartel arrived in Tokyo for a short tour in Japan. The band had just reunited in late August with former Harem Scarem drummer Darren James Smith – who sang lead vocals on several tracks of the self-titled debut album – after flirting with 4 other singers since their breakup in March. Smith and Lee, joined by original drummer Jonas Fairley, and former Ace Frehley and Lynch Mob bassist Anthony Esposito (RDC’s 3rd bassist so far), returned to the site of last year’s Tokyo show on the 5th floor of a discount book, CD and DVD shop.
There was no opening band, so at 7:00 sharp, Fairley set up behind his kit and got the crowd revved up. The screaming really began when Lee joined the rest of the band onstage, while the crowd chanted “Jake, Jake, Jake”, and to their credit Esposito and Smith knew when to stand back and let Lee take center stage. He’s usually focused on his guitar, but when he does look at the crowd, it’s often through the corner of his eyes with a sly smile, kind of like a wicked uncle who’s about to get into trouble.
They started off with “The Ultimate Sin” – not a bad way to start – and the crowd sang every word. After an RDC track, Lee led into a great Badlands track, “Highwire”, with a short finger-tapping solo. He used several of his favorite tricks throughout the show, including using his entire arm to literally bend the guitar to his will. Lee still clearly likes to shred and he had particularly intense solos on a couple of Badlands tunes “Rumblin’ Train” (my new favorite) and “Dreams in the Dark”. He even grabbed a drumstick during the solo to bang the strings with.
The band was pretty tight, and Smith is a good fit – his raspy voice handling the bluesy numbers especially well. He can also scream on command when necessary, which he did a number of times. He had to read the words to “Shot in the Dark” off the floor, but considering it might have only been the 5th or 6th time he performed it, I’ll give him a pass. He and Lee had a couple of moments together on stage, including a quiet version of “In a Dream” which they performed alone and dedicated to former Badlands singer Ray Gillen.
Although it was billed as a Red Dragon Cartel show, it was more of a Jake E. Lee solo show, celebrating his former glories. Of course this has a lot to do with the fact that RDC has only released the one CD, which included guest singers as well. They announced earlier and reposted after the show that, with the conclusion of the Japanese shows, RDC are done touring and plan to finish up a new record for release in early 2016. Hopefully the revolving door stays closed long enough for them to put out a follow up and get back on the road. After a short 85 minutes, Lee and the rest of the Cartel definitely left the crowd wanting more!
The Ultimate Sin (Ozzy Osbourne)
High Wire (Badlands)
Shout It Out
Now You See It (Ozzy Osbourne)
Sun Red Sun (Badlands)
Shot in the Dark (Ozzy Osbourne)
In a Dream (Badlands)
Rumblin’ Train (Badlands)
Dreams in the Dark (Badlands)
Bark at the Moon (Ozzy Osbourne)
Jake E Lee’s albums with Red Dragon Cartel, Badlands, and Ozzy Osbourne are available through Decibel Geek’s Amazon link!
Written by: Dave Glynn
PHOTO CREDITS: Dave Glynn