Bent Out of Shape: An Inside Look at Jake E. Lee's First Show in 20 Years

by Will Wallner
Posted Dec 17, 2013 at 2:45pm

If you follow my column, you'll know Jake E. Lee is one of my favorite guitar players.

I've often referenced him as an influence for several of my lessons, which is why I was extremely excited to hear he was making a comeback with his new band, Red Dragon Cartel.

Even more special was the fact that I was booked as direct support for their live debut (Jake's first show in 20 years!) at the Whisky A GoGo in Los Angeles. It was truly an honor to share the stage with such a legend.

In case you're not familiar with Jake E. Lee's career, let me give you a brief history. Jake's first major gig was with Ozzy Osbourne in the Eighties. He helped make one of Ozzy's most classic albums, Bark At The Moon. The title track is a guitar masterpiece with probably one of the best riffs and guitar solos in metal history.

Following Ozzy, he formed his own band, Badlands, which saw a progression in Jake's style from Eighties shred to a much rawer blues/hard rock sound. After Badlands broke up in the early Nineties, Jake went into semi-retirement. Although he did release music (including two solos albums) sporadically throughout the past 20 years, it seemed as if he'd remain behind the scenes and never tour again.

I arrived at the Whisky during Jake's soundcheck, and for the next 45 minutes experienced Jake E. Lee in top form, jamming through some of his most well-known songs from Ozzy, Badlands and his new material with Red Dragon Cartel.

I'd describe Jake's current style as being to closer to his playing during Badlands. I noticed he'd often improvise a lot of his solos with a blues-rock-based feel. He sounded great and seemed to be playing the same white Charvel guitar he used during his early days with Ozzy.

For amplification, he was using an EVH 5150iii head with two speaker cabinets in a rather strange setup. The first cab was a matching EVH, which was perpendicular to the audience, facing the drums. Then he had a second cab at 90 degrees to the EVH, facing the audience. This was a Marshall 1960 B cab; based on the color of the grill cloth (faded tan), I'd say this cab was from 1986. I managed to snap a pic of the head where you can see a few of the settings marked out (Check out the photo gallery below).

You can see his stage setup in this video and also hear some tasty licks from Jake as he plays through the Badlands classic "Sun Red Sun." Please note this is from the sound check, not the actual show.

Soon after the doors opened, the Whisky was jammed, and there were a few other well-known musicians in the audience, including Warren Di Martini (Ratt), Oni Logan (Lynch Mob), Claude Schnell (Dio) and Joe Holmes (Ozzy). Eddie Trunk, presenter of That Metal Show, was also there to host the event; he's been very supportive of Jake's comeback.

I must admit I was very nervous to be playing in front of one my biggest guitar idols. After our set, I ran off the stage straight into the audience to watch my hero take the stage for the first time in 20 years. Jake's set was a great mix of Ozzy, Badlands and Red Dragon Cartel, ending with "Bark At The Moon."

Red Dragon Cartel's debut album will be released January 28. The band will be touring extensively throughout 2014.

As a longtime fan of Jake's work, I'm really happy to see him making music again and touring. Cheers!

Photo: Alex Solca

Will Wallner is a guitarist from England who now lives in Los Angeles. He recently signed a solo deal with Polish record label Metal Mind Productions for the release of his debut album, which features influential musicians from hard rock and heavy metal. He also is the lead guitarist for White Wizzard (Earache Records) and toured Japan, the US and Canada in 2012. Follow Will on Facebook and Twitter.