In a world where entertainment has become consumed by over-the-top effects, it is seldom that you find a pure act with real talent. Such is the case for Jack Russell. Russell proves that an act doesn’t need twenty-eight back up dancers, pyrotechnics that rival a 4th of July celebration, or voice alteration that changes the singer’s voice to an unnatural tone. Deep at its core, what an act needs is talent and the ability to entertain an audience through that talent. This is exactly what Russell has.
As part of the Story Tellers series, Russell performed an acoustic show with his guitarist Robby Lochner at the Dead Horse Cantina on December 9th in Pittsburgh. Throughout the night, Russell shared stories, some very humorous, regarding the origins of many of the songs he played.
He opened the show with the crowd arousing “Call It Rock & Roll” off Great White’s 1991 Hooked album. Russell performed the song with his signature and spot-on vocals that matched the recorded version of the song.
According to Russell, he saw “Gary” on a television news report where the newscaster referred to him as the “balding bandit.” It was the spotting on the newscast that led to Gary ending up in the song.
But it was also at this point in the night that Russell revealed his pointed wit. The audience enjoyed jokes Russell made in reference to the “balding bandit” statement and the overall effects of aging everyone goes through.
“I’m going to live forever, wanna look good!” Russell quipped.
Russell then jumped far back in his catalog to “On Your Knees.” Originally, it was titled “In Love.” Russell said that he knew he had a great song but the chorus was weak. So, he took it to his friend Don Dokken which lead to a rewrite of the chorus and a renaming of the song.
Next, the duo played “Face the Day.” The song found its way to Great White after Russell heard the song playing on the radio. Russell remembers sitting with several recording executives one day and while they were having their own side conversation, he heard the song come on the radio. It had been originally recorded by the Australian band Angel City but it was soon to become a Great White classic.
“Save Your Love” Russell stated as being the first love song he ever wrote. Russell’s humor again emerged when talking about this song. While in the studio recording, Russell’s first wife, whom Russell credits writing the song for, was in the parking lot smashing her car into his. Though the marriage didn’t last, the timelessness of “Save Your Love” remains intact for generations of Great White fans.
Before playing the highly anticipated classic “Rock Me,” Russell admitted that upon hearing the music for the first time, he had no idea how he was going to write lyrics to it. Its structure was far different from those of other rock songs of its day. Yet, after completion, Russell and his bandmates realized that the song had major potential and would be a hit.
“Desert Moon” was the best performance of the night. Lochner and Russell played the song in such a way that it sounded like a full band instead of just the two musicians.
“Once Bitten, Twice Shy…” was introduced by a touching dedication of it to the late Jani Lane, lead singer of Warrant and a friend of Russell’s.
Russell later performed “Wasted Rock Ranger,” a song he was introduced to by Duff McKagan of Guns N Roses. According to Russell, he was hanging out with several members of the band during their recording session of Appetite for Destruction. McKagan found the song to be humorous but Russell quickly fell in love with it and felt Great White had to record it.
Russell also did several covers in addition to Great White material including Neil Young’s “Old Man” and Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California.” It was with his cover of Zeppelin that Russell showcased what was his most beautiful vocal performance of the night. It was transit in nature carrying the listener to another time and place.
Finally, a cover of the Stone’s “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” very fittingly, closed the show, because after all, Russell is Captain Jack.
Throughout the night, Russell proved to be an outstanding act. During an interview, Russell said that he takes a good portion of a show day warming-up his voice in a similar manner that marathon runner would warm-up before a race and his efforts definitely show. Russell could take the stage with any singer of the 80’s or present-day and he would set the bar for them to reach. He has a natural talent that requires only a microphone and some good lyrics to sing.
In addition to Russell’s vocal performance, Lochner matched with perfection on guitar. He brought all the Great White songs to life through his meticulous playing. Songs such as “Desert Moon” and “Once Bitten, Twice Shy…” showcased his gift of playing, especially considering he performed them acoustically.
After the show, Russell met with the audience, posed for photographs and signed countless autographs. Yet, what set him apart from other rock stars who do similar gestures, is that Jack actually engaged in conversations with his fans. He talked about fishing, boating, surgeries and any other topic that came up. Russell is a down-to-earth guy who actually wants to get to know his fans. His fan base is an important part in his life and the humbleness Russell displays proves this.
Throughout the entire night, Russell connected with his fans both through his music and gifted storytelling. There was a bond established among the two. Cheers from fans including, “Captain Jack is Back!” and several “We love you Jack!” were met with sincerely smiles and acknowledgment from Russell.
Russell is a class act both on stage and back stage. If you get the chance, catch one of his shows you will be thoroughly entertained.