Doug Aldrich and Dave Amato remembering Ronnie Montrose in Anaheim - photo by Sal Serio
A definite highlight for hard rock fans attending the 2020 Winter NAMM Show in Anaheim, California, was the 5th annual Ronnie Montrose Remembered tribute concert. Organized by later-day “Montrose” vocalist Keith St. John, and with proceeds going to assist the Sweet Relief charity fund which helps to aid musician’s medical needs, this was another star-studded rotating cast of rock n’ rollers all assembled to pay tribute to the late great hugely influential guitarist Ronnie Montrose.
As with 2019’s RMR event, the show was held at the M3 Live Anaheim Event Center, but this year was moved to the larger theater-style auditorium. This was a several hour long concert, with many featured musicians stopping to recall their memories of playing with Montrose, such as former Gamma keyboardist Ed Roth, who was one of the mainstays of the evening’s lengthy program. Also on hand to MC the proceedings was SiriusXM radio host Eddie Trunk.
After an opening instrumental jam featuring guitarist Ricky Z, the red-leather-clad Keith St. John came out to greet the crowd and kick start the singing part of the show. Vocals throughout the evening were primarily handled by St. John and Andrew Freeman (from The Last In Line), but there was also a slower blues fronted by Night Ranger’s Kelly Keagy. One thing many Montrose fans may not realize is that Ronnie got his professional start in the music industry as guitarist on Van Morrison’s ‘Tupelo Honey’ album, and both the title track and “Wild Night” were featured early on in the set. The performance of “Tupelo Honey” was augmented by a string section showcasing famed violinist Adel Eskander.
There are almost too many notable high marks to mention as various guitarists, drummers, and bass players rotated in on every selection, which ran the gamut from Ronnie Montrose’s most well-known tracks from Montrose and the Edgar Winter Group, as well as selections from the group Gamma. One pinnacle of excellence was the monster smash hit “Frankenstein” which featured intense effects-ridden guitar work by Sweet’s Mitch Perry, playing off of saxophonist Katja Rieckermann (from the Rod Stewart band). Another fave was the metal shredding guitar solo by Machine Head’s Phil Demmel on the Gamma track “Razor King”.
As expected, many of the evening’s selections were culled from the first two iconic Montrose albums, 1973’s ‘Montrose’ and 1974’s ‘Paper Money’ (aka the Sammy Hagar era records). Not only were some of rock’s greatest guitarists on hand to interpret these classics, but drum legends such as Carmine Appice, Jimmy DeGrasso, and Matt Starr were in the house as well. But, speaking of those guitar gods, check out this partial song selection: “Rock The Nation” (w/ Doug Aldrich & Sean McNabb), “Good Rockin’ Tonight” (w/ Derek St. Holmes, Randy Jackson, & excellent bassist Barry Sparks), “I Don’t Want It” (w/ Gary Hoey), “Paper Money” (w/ Dave Rude from Tesla & Randy Jackson), “Make It Last” (w/ Doug Aldrich & Dave Amato from REO Speedwagon), and “One Thing On My Mind”.
As the four hour show drew to a close, neither the audience nor the performers seemed ready to quit paying their respects to the legend Ronnie Montrose, and the show was pushed almost a half hour over the venue’s curfew, with long jams on “Rock Candy”, featuring Great White’s Jack Russell on vocals and no less than four guitarists trading off riffs (George Lynch, Randy Jackson, Doug Aldrich & Dave Amato), and finally the epic show-stopper that brought the whole thing home - “Bad Motor Scooter” with Keith St. John singing his ass off while Doug Aldrich, Phil Demmel, Brad Gillis, and Sean McNabb hit the strings with everything they had. It was intense! Ronnie was proudly smiling down on everyone in the Anaheim M3 theater that night.