Jack Russell is a musician on a mission, fronting Great White on a fundraising tour to benefit the victims and families of the February 20th Station tragedy in Rhode Island. Great White staged an amazing gig at the historic Sterling Hotel in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, September 27, 2003.
The incarnation of Great White on stage in Allentown featured vocalist Jack Russell, former lead guitarist Mark Kendall, and newcomers Jordan Martin on guitar and Scott Pounds on bass. The band arrived without equipment and was assisted by Eighteenth Hour who opened before them in the Rock Room.
Despite multiple obstacles, Great White went on with the show. During that afternoon preceding the performance, Great White's drummer Derrick Pontier was involved in a head-on collision. The group was able to secure the services of another drummer John Cree, scheduled to play The Patio at the Sterling Hotel the same night.
The band came out on stage to vigorous applause with Russell thanking all of the friends and fans of the group for coming down from Rhode Island. He shared the news of drummer Derrick Pontier's afternoon accident and that local drummer John Cree would be sitting in with the band.
With respect for those lost in February, Russell asked the audience to remember the Station nightclub victim's and their families and friends in a moment of silence. Bowed heads reflected in silence on that tragic event.
Afterwards, Russell exclaimed, "Are you ready for this? ... 'cause I'm not", as the band launched into "Face The Day". The crowd clapped and sang the lyrics before the band kicked into full gear. Russell quipped, "I wanted to be an archeologist, but I became a *ing fossil!", before the pounding rhythm of "On Your Knees" got the crowd energized. Russell briefly interrupted the intro to "House Of Broken Love". Kendall tore into a searing guitar solo during the bridge.
Linda Fisher was one of 22 G.W. fans that came down from Rhode Island to attend the Allentown concert. Fisher was invited up on stage by Russell to sing a duet with him on "Save Your Love". She did a fantastic job, handling lead vocals on her own. "Being on stage was everything I imagined it would be", Fisher remarked. Her friend Valerie had asked Russell in advance if he would agree to sing a duet on stage.
"It was so cool to be on stage and have a room full of people singing with you", Fisher added. Pontier's auto accident provided an unanticipated detour for the band. "Jack had told me earlier in the night that the last thing he wanted to do was cancel", Fisher confirmed. Enter drummer John Cree who stepped up and rescued the gig. Fisher stated, "I thought he did a phenomenal job. He got up there and did a great job".
"Play On" was introduced as a new tune. The driven pop-rocker featured strong drumming from Cree behind the skins. Russell admitted "Can't Shake It" was an odd choice as a Wedding dedication. The rhythm section groove thumped in percussive harmony, supported by Kendall's crunching lead guitar solo. The bombastic trio jammed before the full group returned to fire up a fierce climax with repeated false endings.
Russell acknowledged a $500 donation to the Station Fund from the proprietors of the Rock Room. Todd King, a member of the opening act at the West Warwick tragedy, was welcomed up on stage to recognize Ty Longley, the Great White lead guitarist who perished in the fire.
Russell inquired, "Does anybody from Allentown get stoned? I'm talking Cheech and Chong stoned!", as a segue into the humorous, headbanger-anthem "Rollin' Stoned". A cool bass intro on "Rock Me" by Pounds morphed into a full force rocker enjoyed by an enthusiastically charged audience. Kendallšs stellar lead guitar solo completed the musical moment.
Russell delivered a robust vocal for the Allentown encore, 1990's top five single "Once Bitten, Twice Shy". The pop-rock guitar-drenched romp showcased a blistering lead guitar solo by Kendall. Russell generously gave fans an opportunity to sing the hit chorus into his microphone before the tempo climaxed in crescendo. Russell exclaimed, "Thank you so much, GOD bless you!", as he and the band exited the intimate stage.
After their Sterling Hotel performance, Russell and the band greeted the roving fans from Rhode Island who had arrived by bus. This gig was Fisher's first time seeing Great White live since the nightclub tragedy. She had been in the audience at The Station on February 20 and suffered serious burns on her body.
Fisher recounted events from that February evening, "The night of the fire, I was selling CDs & T-shirts. I knew there were pyrotechnics ahead of time. Everyone thought the fire was part of the show. It was in two perfect squares on either side of the stage".
"When the pyrotechnics ended, the fire continued, which I recognized as not being part of the show. I told Debbie that wasn't going to be good. She said 'shouldn't we go to the front door'. I said '300 plus people in one door doesn't work'. We thought it was a small fire. I tried to shove the shirt boxes back to keep them out of reach".
"We ended up getting stuck in the atrium where I was selling the shirts. Then the smoke and the heat hit us. I told Debbie to get on the floor. That place went up so quick, the fire department didn't have a chance in hell of getting there to do any real good, and they responded quickly".
"When no sprinklers and no firemen showed, I decided to stand up and kick out the window and encountered the heat - around 1200 degrees. I tried kicking out the window and couldn't. My last thought after I laid down on the floor was asking GOD to look after my family".
"I made my peace with GOD on the floor of that club; I could have died. Then all of a sudden, the window broke. Someone reached in and pulled Debbie out first and then me. And what is the irony that a camera crew was there to do a story on nightclub safety? I think that a bunch of individuals all did something stupid, and it all converged on that night".
"My own determination to heal has got me back to work", she affirmed. Fisher participates in occupational therapy three days a week. "Discomfort is mostly in the arms, little twinges misfire with a sharp jolt of pain. I've actually gotten better and have stopped taking most of my pain meds", she confided.
Please visit www.stationfamilyfund.org for information on efforts to aid the Rhode Island families affected by the nightclub tragedy. Russell and Great White are laboring to contribute funds to the families by utilizing the band as a fundraising tool. Their support and promotion of the fund has successfully solicited $117,500 to date.
John Cree must be recognized as the M.V.P. who pulled it all together for Great White and their fans. He only spent three hours rehearsing with the band prior to his appearance on stage with the group. Despite Russellšs verbal ribbing of the drummer, Cree, to his credit, propelled the unit throughout their performance without a glitch.
Allentown setlist: Face The Day * On Your Knees * House Of Broken Love * Save Your Love * Play On * Can't Shake It * Rollin' Stoned * Rock Me * Encore: Once Bitten, Twice Shy
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