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Jani Lane: Keyboards? At a Rock N' Roll Show?


By Chuck G

A hot, steamy summer night in Cleveland.

What better way to kick off an early weekend by heading down to The Flats, drinking some cold ones and being entertained by an 80's era mainstay.

Club Karma, a hipster dance club in the basement of revamped Cleveland warehouse, was the scene for tonight's spectacle. Karma is known for hosting DJs of various import and female-revues...but a glam-metal icon? This was something altogether different.

A crowd of roughly 300 people littered the main room of Karma, complete with "Saturday Night Fever" light-up dance floor, which for tonight, was transformed into the main stage complete with drum kit, bass rig, twin-guitar set-ups and keyboards.

Keyboards?

Who could it be? Europe? Were the strains of "The Final Countdown" going to explode from the banks of the Cuyahoga River? Or could the dark lord of rock n' roll, Ozzy Osbourne himself be unleashing a "Mr. Crowley-esque" fury as a warm-up to Ozzfest?

Keyboards, indeed.

But from the opening extended intro of "Down Boys" the jig was up. Jani Lane took the dance floor...er, stage...to pretty decent applause. After all, this wasn't a Warrant gig, persay. It was Jani Lane: former singer/songwriter of Warrant performing a one-night only show. 

Anyone familiar with the Warrant soap-opera knows that it's going the way of Ratt. Like Ratt, there are sort of two Warrants. There is the Warrant that is out there touring this summer that has all the original members...except for Jani Lane (former Black N' Blue frontman Jaime St. James is now handling lead vocals). And much like Stephen Pearcy and band hitting the road playing Ratt hits, Jani Lane, it seems, is starting to do the same. If his money's right. 

But for a surprisingly young and enthusiastic Karma crowd, this was alright with them. A fan-friendly set-list of Warrant hits was in the offing and here was "the voice" of Warrant to deliver them. 

"D.R.F.S.R" melted into "32 Pennies" then Lane and company opened up the vault on some of Lane's solo pieces that have been a long time in reaching the public, but are in effect, basically the cause for the Tale of Two Warrants. Lane sang the new stuff with a renewed energy, but that's not to say that he phoned in the Warrant hits. After the rough stuff, Lane was handed his acoustic guitar for the obligatory medley of "Blind Faith"/"I Saw Red" which culminates in a full version of "Heaven."

Flanking Lane on lead guitar was former Warrant member, Billy Morris. A Cleveland favorite for what seems like ages now, Billy is equal parts affable and energetic. His "Aw shucks, I'm a rock star" attitude to the business makes him extremely approachable and engaging. Plays flawless guitar, as well.

After a half-hearted attempt to play some sort of muddy backwater slop on the guitar, Jani said, "Aw hell, why don't I let the guy who played the thing on the album come up and play it for you." With that, Lane's brother, Robert came up and played a note-perfect intro to "Uncle Tom's Cabin." Lane and Morris relied heavily on each other and it was on this song ("Cabin") that Morris especially shined. He will say all the right things publicly about loving the Poison's and the Warrants of the world, but it's obvious that he yearns to shred and there was plenty of room to rip n' tear on this song.

Ending the set with the crowd-pleasing "Cherry Pie," Lane seemed truly thankful for the support. If only he could come to terms with performing the songs that put him on the map and gave him celebrity. In the past, he has been quoted as saying that he can't stand playing some of the Warrant catalog. 

A lot has been written on Jani Lane's public and private persona over the last couple of years. Some of it scathingly untrue. For instance, NO...Jani Lane is not the cook at a local area club. YES...Jani is an excellent chef and helped that club owner put together a menu for the eatery. 

But Jani looks every part aging rockstar. Dressed mainly in black, but with modest denim jacket and jeans, Lane's mohawk has grown back in, thankfully and he now sports a simple gelled-and-mussed-up blonde coif. Is he portly? Sure...there's no denying that Lane is probably living well. Was the neck tattoo a mistake? Unequivocally.

The rest of Lane's band was rounded out with what looked to be street urchins and neer-do-wells. I'm sure this was so that Jani could collect the lion's share of the gig proceeds while throwing these hired hands some free Budweiser's and a ride to the show in his limo. Band chemistry, there was none, but the band was fine, nonetheless.
 

  • Lane and Morris put together a reasonable facsimile of what once was Warrant and gave the fans a glimpse into the past. Who knows what the future holds for Lane. He'll always have the Warrant back-catalog to fall on. But let's hear it for local boy Billy Morris and hope he catches on with somebody worthy of his talents.
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