John 5

w/ Jared James Nichols & The Atomic Punks

The Observatory – Santa Ana, CA

Friday, January 26th, 2023

Review/Pictures: Diane Lynn


John 5 kicked off his 2024 tour at the Observatory last Saturday to a jam-packed house! 

Seeing this uber talented guitarist perform was a great way to kick off my NAMM weekend and as always, I was blown away!  

It was a mixed bag of people, youngsters and oldsters and a lot of people sporting their NAMM badges. All with one objective, to witness the magical fingers of John 5 in action.  

Friday night at the Observatory seemed to be starting off a bit slow, but by the time the first of the two openers, The Atomic Punks, took the stage the crowd had grown considerably.


As I mentioned, first up were The Atomic Punks. Kicking the night off with their high energy tribute to early Van Halen. The Punks were formed way back in 1994, have gone through numerous lineup changes, yet 30 years later they are still knocking us back with their electrifying sets of VH classics. Earning praise from Eddie Trunk, Michael Anthony and even Diamond Dave, himself. This band will take you back in time and have you wondering “what the teachers gonna look like this year”?!  

The Atomic Punks are: 

Scott Patterson – Drums and original Punk member 
Brian Geller – Vocals 
Dan Spree – Bass 
Frankie Lindia – Guitar 


Next up, Jared James Nichols – a fierce guitarist hailing from the great state of Wisconsin. This was my second go-round with Jared (technically my third with seeing him perform a short set at NAMM a few years ago) and he was just as show stopping this time as the first. Jared has easily made a name for himself in the guitar world with his heart pounding blues-rock style of music. He’s opened for some of the best Southern Rockers out there such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top and Kid Rock. In early 2016, Music Radar named Jared as one of the “Top Upcoming Guitar Players in the World”.  


Joining Jared on stage were drummer Ryan Rice and bassist Brian Weaver 

Jared included some hard hitting songs in his 45 minute set. He showcased a number of  tunes from his latest, 2023, self-titled release, such as Down The Drain, Bad Roots and the pulse pounding Easy Come, Easy Go which he opened with. He left my personal favorite, Keep Your Light On Mamafor next to last and ended the set with his amazing Alice In Chains cover Man In The Box showcasing Jared’s shredding skills that just about lit his guitar on fire! 


Now, what we were all waiting for, John 5 

The stage was set in deep, dark blue, lighting with only a few video panels bearing his name in white. You could barely make out a silhouette of drummer Alejandro Mercado sitting at the kit, positioned center stage. The faint sounds of Pure Imagination sung by Gene Wilder from the original Willy Wonka movie was played for just a moment, then boom, the drum into for Invasion starts as John 5 makes his way out.

John was wearing a floor length, white vinyl, sleeveless coat with the circled number 5 on it in blood red. Surprisingly there was no elaborate face paint for him this time, just his signature platinum blond hair.

John 5 worked the whole stage while he played his set, making sure to acknowledge the fans on the sides and pointing to the fans in the back. He kept everyone engaged and even gave some an up close and personal moment as he went into the crowd to play.  

John’s set was about 90mins and he covered a variety of tunes, some were his originals and some were covers. John’s originals included Season of the Witch, Que Pasa and Creep Show to name a few. After covering a favorite of mine, Georgia On My Mind by Hoagy Carmichael, he gave drummer Alejandro Mercado a few moments to show off his hard hitting skills with John finally joining in to tease us with the intro to Hot For Teacher by Van Halen, then straight into Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Queen.

John mentioned that he joined this band called Motley Crue and for those that had never heard of them he was going to introduce you to their music with a Crue Medley he put together. To give the Crue tunes a little more bite he enlisted the help of his guitar tech to join him on stage to play bass. He started the 10 min Crue Medley with a snip of Live Wire ending it with Kickstart My Heart. Tucked in the middle was Home Sweet Home” that had the whole crowd singing as he played. A kickass nod to a legendary band that he happens to now be a part of. 


He ended his set with Land Of Misfit Toys and his latest single, The Ghost”, released this past October along with a pretty rad video for the song that shows some behind the scene stuff and live concert footage.

Before we knew it the show was over. The amazing talents of John 5 had filled our ears and our rock n roll hearts were completely full. I know all of the John 5 fans are going to enjoy the show as much as I did!


Intro (Pure Imagination/Invasion) 
Season of the Witch 
Que Pasa 
Six Hundred and Sixty Six Pickers in Hell, CA 
Crank It — Living with Ghosts 
Strung Out 
Cactus Flower 
I Am John 5 
How High the Moon 
Constant Sorrow 
Black Grass Plague 
Georgia on My Mind 
Crazy Little Thing Called Love 
Mötley Crüe medley (Live Wire/Too Fast for Love/Shout at the Devil/Looks that Kill/Home Sweet Home/Wild Side/Girls, Girls, Girls/Dr. Feelgood/Kickstart My Heart)
The Ghost
Land of Misfit Toys

Related Links:

John 5


Jared James Nichols


The Atomic Punks