Warrant play first LA show since the death of Jani Lane
Erik Turner & Jerry Dixon formed Warrant in 1984 while still in High School.
WARRANT PLAYS FIRST LOS ANGELES SHOW SINCE JANI LANE’S DEATH
A Metal Sludge exclusive including a backstage post-concert interview with guitarist Joey Allen
By Gerry Gittelson
Metal Sludge Contributor
AGOURA, Calif. – I’ve got two framed Warrant records hanging on my wall – a gold “Dirty, Rotten, Filthy, Stinking Rich” and a platinum “Cherry Pie – so as I sit this morning to write yet again about the famed glam band, I’m a bit emotional.
We grew up together. It was 25 years ago, and Warrant had just plucked Jani Lane out of obscurity — he of the incredible voice, amazing songs and a knack for showmanship — and the band had just signed to Columbia. I was a fledging rock journalist, fresh out of college (I barely graduated!), just getting started on what has turned out to be a lifetime career.
I always, always, always loved Warrant – generally not the most popular stance among my rock-critic compatriots – and through the years I’ve had my ups and downs just like they have, and we’re both still going.
But this was Warrant’s first Los Angeles concert since Jani died.
I was in the front row at a venue called Canyon Club – just a few miles from the hotel room where Jani’s body was discovered Aug. 11, 2011 after an apparent drinking session by himself – and no matter how good a job new singer Robert Mason was doing on stage, thoughts of Jani Lane kept darting through my head.
Once I took a deep breath, I realized Warrant is still so darn good it should be against the law. Guitarists Joey Allen and Erik Turner did a fine job playing off each other on some of the more catchy old ones like “Sometimes She Cries,” “Down Boys” and “Love in Stereo.”
Jerry Dixon Warrant Bassist
Bassist Jerry Dixon and drummer Steven Sweet still look so young – what the hell has happened to myself?! – and there was a nice crowd, and everyone seemed to be really enjoying it.
It took a long time before the name “Jani Lane” came up, but of course Warrant dedicated “Heaven” to him.
Backstage afterward, I visited with Allen. The fact this was Warrant’s return home for the first time since Lane’s death was not lost on either of us; it was the first thing we talked about.
“It’s surreal. I still can’t believe it,” Allen said. “Just in the past few weeks, I’ve been talking a lot to Jani’s family members, a lot of them. You think back, and we just had so many highs and a lows together. We even brought in a sober coach for Jani. We tried, we really did.
Erik Turner (left) & Joey Allen (right) lock in with Jerry Dixon (center)
“On the tail end of the last tour Jani did with us, I remember telling him, ‘Dude, you should not be on the road.’”
Allen loved Jani Lane like a brother. Everyone in Warrant did.
“We were honestly afraid we would find him dead in a hotel room one day, and that’s exactly what happened,” Allen said.
Lane, struggling with sobriety and personal problems, left in 2004. Jaime St. James subbed in for a stretch before a short-lived, last foray with Lane in 2008, and now the band seems particularly happy with Mason, who joined nearly four years ago and brings a lot to the table. He sings great – not particularly the same tone stylings as Jani but still nice – plus he is in great shape, and he is really into it.
Robert Mason Warrant Frontman
Of course Warrant, particularly Mason, will continue to have its detractors because the beloved Lane wrote all the big hits (and the little ones, too). At the Canyon Club, when Mason remarked how nice it felt when the crowd sang along, a heckler up front said to Mason: “But these are not your songs. These are not your songs.”
Mason locked eyes with the guy, then proclaimed: “Watch me go, boy. Watch me go.” He then sang his ass off.
There are four original members, and that’s more than most so-called classic-rock bands from Warrant’s era that are still making a go of things.
“Robert and Jani were actually good friends,” Allen said.
Warrant played 51 shows last year – their pay days are not like being in Van Halen but the players make enough to eek out a living – and this was the first concert of the new year.
Warrant is still putting out records, and the last release, “Rockaholic,” is actually quite good and should not be compared to the similarly named “Ultraphopic” — which was not. Warrant still has a passion to succeed, just like they always did, and they’re tight and well-rehearsed – again, just like always.
Don’t you dare put Warrant in the same class as BulletBoys, L.A. Guns, Faster Pussycat, et al. Warrant was bigger and better back then, and it’s the same way today. Even without Jani.
STORY AND PHOTOS BY GERRY GITTELSON
Gerry Gittelson can be reached at [email protected]