Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

Leslie West/Uli Jon Roth/Golden Ghosts / Raftree/Cashmier - Starland Ballroom, Sayreville, NJ - February 4, 2012

By Phil Rainone, with help from Mike Lefton & Alan Lefton

Glow Strings, Spinal Tap Time-Warped, and Blues-Powered Rock

We went to this show to see Leslie West and didn’t quite know what to expect. The first two bands played 30 minutes each, and were similar in nature, throwbacks to 70’s/80’s Hair Metal. Both bands looked long-in-the tooth (as most of us in the crowd did), with played-out riffs and cock-rock posturiing (they “menacingly” prowled the stage, and their “tortured” face/body gestures looked faked).

But all three were definitely battle-worn rockers. You got the feeling that Cashmier and Raftree saw the movie Spinal Tap and thought it was real (“Did you come here to rock ‘n’ roll?” from one of the bands was met with little reaction). If they had worked on their playing more than posturing, they might have made the grade.- Oh yeah, the guitar and bass players in Cashmier had glow-in-the-dark strings… which didn’t make them play any better, but hey, it’s, “All for the love of rock ‘n’ roll,” as they say.


For some cool meat-and-potatoes alt-rock, Golden Ghosts from Los Angeles fit the bill nicely. The lead singer had mentioned toward the end of their set that this was the last leg of their East Coast tour, and they were excited to be on the bill with Leslie West. Now here’s band that knows how to get your attention and turn a show right around! Sounding like a psychedelic version of the New York Dolls, these young guns (most of the band looked in their early 20’s) amped up the night with about a half-dozen tunes that, by the end of their set, had created a psychedelic bonfire as the guitars raged, the rhythm section seemingly pumped iron, the lead singer wailed (working the stage like a shaman,) and the addition of a keyboard/organ player crated a swirl of music that felt like no other. You’ve got to see Golden Ghost next time around!

Uli Jon Roth (long, grey haired 60’s road warrior), who in some circles is considered a guitar virtuoso, put on a performance in Shredding Metal 101. His five piece band included two other guitar players (they looked to be in the late teens or early 20’s), a solid rhythm section (they looked the part of a classic metalheads, with long hair, beards and mustaches), and a lead singer that looked like he just been transported out of a really bad 70’s metal band (think: Rush.) But he actually hit some high notes which were somewhat impressive. On stage they looked like three different generations of rockers. The crowd certainly appreciated their hour-long set. Fortunately no one held up their cell phones (lighters are a definite no-no these days) for an encore. Actually, they did come back at the end of Leslie’s set with more of the same shredder-than-you attitude, and Zeppelin-wanna-be vocals, but by then the place was clearing out except for the hardcore metal heads.

Golden Ghost

By now, pretty much anyone that’s interested in rock, blues, and metal has heard that Leslie West had recently had gone under surgery to have part of his right leg amputated due to diabetes, and now plays in a wheel chair. Well, here’s a situation where less is more. He’s been in rehabilitation for a few months and has been touring and recorded a new album. Leslie had made a joke about losing his leg about 1/3 of the way through the show, and everyone applauded, cheered, and there were quite a few “We love you, Leslie!” shouts throughout the night. Leslie showed his appreciation by blasting out some classic Mountain tunes, along with some cool covers.

Opening with a cover of The Impressions soul-stirring “People Get Ready,” Leslie enthralled the crowd with his own heart-melting blues-ified version to a cheering crowd. Then, with what sounded like a lion’s roar, Leslie and his three piece band launched into “Blood of the Sun,” the first song from his first album “Mountain” (produced by Mountain band mate, Felix Pappalardi) from the late 60’s. That album’s genesis was the corner stone that would make Leslie, with Felix on bass, Corky Lang on drums, and Steve Knight on keyboards, became a MAJOR rock/blues band, Mountain.

Uli John Roth Band

Will The Circle Be Unbroken?

As a side note, Mike Lefton (check out the interview with Mike, John Hawken, and Bill Turner in these here Jersey Beat pages) styled his guitar playing after Leslie’s, and his dad Alan’s bass playing has a lot in common with Jack Bruce’s (Cream, West, Bruce and Lang, to name a few) style.

The cool link between Mountain, Cream, and WB&L was Felix Pappalardi (I wanted to play bass like Felix when I was a kid). He was like the calm in the eye of the hurricane, compared to Leslie’s whirling dervish-style of no-holds-barred rock ‘n’ roll. Pappalardi produced all of Cream’s albums. Jack Bruce was the “B” in the 70’s super group WB&L (West, Bruce & Lang), after Felix’s untimely death.

With Leslie’s bass player cavorting around the stage like a hell-on-wheels punk rocker, Leslie still was the center of attention as they launched into one of Mountain’s classics, “Theme for an Imaginary Western,” written by Jack Bruce. Even with Felix’s absence (God rest his soul), Leslie and the band gave the 60’s warhorse a new spirit and mojo. What was a little distracting, but somewhat cool was the bass player’s solo, which lasted over five minutes, and included a nod to Johnny Nash’s “I can See Clearly Now” and The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.”

When they set about re-imaging Woody Guthrie’s classic, “House of the Rising Sun” they got into a jam that was filled with some nasty electric blues and Leslie’s image-building vocals that lasted almost ten minutes. Then they pulled out “Mississippi Queen,’ which they usually close with, which gave the song more traction, I think.

With an ending that seemed to last forever, there were huge smiles all around, including the fans that were just treated to some of the finest blues rock this side of the Mississippi (pun intended.)

Uli Jon Roth joined the band on stage for “House,” and also another cover, “I’m Going Down, “which was like a lesson in Blues Rock 101. Uli Jon seemed to rise to the occasion as to me, he sounded sharper than when he played with his band. At times trading licks with Leslie, and other times they both reached for the heavens with searing, spiraling dual solos.

After about an hour set, Leslie and his band left the stage, and within about ten minutes Uli Jon Roth and his band came back on stage and played a couple of more songs to end the night. I haven’t seen that before, but it was a nice touch to end a four hour-plus manic, music, marathon. The only thing missing was that Leslie didn’t play any songs from his new album, which seems to be one of his best. Maybe next time?

Johnny Ramone once said that Leslie West was one of the 5 top guitar players of his era. I couldn’t have said it better myself! is an independently published music fanzine covering punk, alternative, ska, techno and garage music, focusing on New Jersey and the Tri-State area. For the past 25 years, the Jersey Beat music fanzine has been the authority on the latest upcoming bands and a resource for all those interested in rock and roll.

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