Review: Jani Lane – live in Columbus

Jani Lane / Friday, May 25 / Alrosa Villa / Columbus, Ohio

Word on the street … er … message boards is that Jani Lane shows over the past couple of years have been hit or miss, with a majority being of the BIG miss variety. While the former singer of Warrant seemed to have gotten his shit together on Celebrity Fit Club after bottoming out midway through taping, the “old” Lane reportedly returned once the cameras were turned off and another series of message board postings about missed shows, drunken sets that only lasted 3 songs, and treating fans like shit started popping up.

Now, before going any further, I will state for the record that Jani Lane is my [insert name of your favorite singer, the one you worship despite any bad things you might hear about the singer]. I’ll stick by him through thick (ha ha, NOT an intentional Celebrity Fit Club reference) or thin and I like to own everything he appears on, even if it’s just providing backing vocals (see: Crumb’s Seconds, Minutes, Hours).

Lane’s first ever solo appearance in Columbus was announced just a few short weeks ago and the “will he show or won’t he” watch began. As he’s not in the midst of any sort of lengthy tour but, rather, picking up a few dates a week over the course of the next month or two, the road demons that have been plaguing Lane since grunge put a few nails in hair metal’s coffin aren’t as readily available. But, despite the lack of Lane stories making the rounds for the current tour, I’ll admit that I was a bit nervous about his show at the Alrosa Villa (yes, the club made famous due to the fact that Dimebag Darrell was gunned down there).

I spotted Lane’s long-time drummer Mike Fasano working the crowd (or, more specifically, the ladies of the crowd) before the show and asked him if they’d be playing any thing off Lane’s solo album, the excellent Back Down to One. “I’m not really sure. I haven’t even seen Jani tonight, I don’t even know if he’s going to show up,” Fasano told me.

Oh crap.

Fortunately, Lane showed up about 30 minutes before he was set to go on and with very little time between the fourth opening band, Lane hit the stage looking like the guy I saw during the Celebrity Fit Club finale – substance-free and in shape. Now, I didn’t run a drug screen on Lane so I can’t say that he was 100% sober and/or clean, but he looked great, didn’t touch any alcohol while performing (in contrast to all the stories that have made the rounds), and was totally focused on the task at hand – bringing the rock, old school style.

Lane’s set consisted primarily of tracks off the first two Warrant albums, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinkin’ Rich and Cherry Pie though he did sneak a few songs from Dog Eat Dog (“Machine Gun”, “Hole in My Wall”) and Belly to Belly (“AYM”) into the 70-minute set. I’ve seen the new version of Warrant (which is all the original members with ex-Black N’ Blue frontman Jamie St. James in Lane’s place) three times and after hearing Lane play the classics, it’s very obvious to me that Lane makes the band. There is no way that St. James can even begin to do songs like “Heaven,” “Down Boys” or “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” the justice they deserve.

Lane’s clean-and-sober performance was almost … almost … overshadowed by the prodigy he has playing guitar for him, 17-year-old Dario Lorina who, by far, was the most glammed out rocker in the whole venue on this particular Friday night (I swear he looked like a young Randy Rhodes and seems to be following in Rhodes’s footsteps as an amazing guitarist).

The highlight for me came towards the end of the set when Lane and band busted out “Big Talk,” a track from DRFSR that I’ve rarely, if ever, heard live (and I’ve seen Warrant probably 20 times in concert since 1988).

For one night, I was transported back to 1989 (though somehow I was given a fake ID and was able to buy beer) and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a sucker for nostalgia which is why this show will probably go down as one of my favorites of 2007.

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