Watch John 5 make a spectacular live debut with Mötley Crüe

John 5 and Nikki Sixx
(Image credit: Jim Powers/YouTube)

John 5 made his highly anticipated debut with Mötley Crüe in Atlantic City on Friday night (February 10), using a number of custom Fender Telecasters to tear through an epic set culled from all eras of the Los Angeles metal institution’s career, and it looked like he had been there for years.

Fan-shot footage has emerged of the set that confirms what everyone suspected all along; that John 5 was the smart choice – perhaps the only choice – to replace long-standing Crüe guitarist and co-founder Mick Mars, who announced his retirement from touring in October. 

Mars, who has had the painful and degenerative condition ankylosing spondylitis since he was a teenager, remains a member of the band, but decided that after years of managing the condition, it has become too much on his body to tour.

That John 5 – aka John William Lowery – was to replace Mars was one of the worst-kept secrets in rock. He has always been close to the band. And his playing style, all OTT theater and spectacle, is to the manor born.

Once it was confirmed, John 5’s social media feed was soon building anticipation  for what Crüe fans could expect once they saw him onstage. Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx said the lineup’s first full rehearsal together “was fucking epic”.

Mötley Crüe lit up a cold New Jersey evening on Friday with a hard-to-beat opening trifecta of Wild Side, Shout at the Devil and Too Fast For Love – John 5 using his custom ‘Ghost’ Tele. 

As revealed a couple of weeks ago, John 5’s guitar rig for the blockbuster tour is relatively straightforward. He has his Telecasters running into a series of Marshall JVM tube amp heads, and only a small pedalboard populated with Boss Compact Series pedals. 

His ‘board features an SD-1 Super Overdrive, CH-1 Super Chorus, OC-5 Octave, NS-2 Noise Suppressor and DD-8 Digital Delay, with a Radial Engineering SGI-44 line driver for good measure.

John 5 might be new to the band but the set did feature The Dirt (Est. 1981), a track he co-wrote for the soundtrack from the 2019 Crüe biopic of the same name. And, of course, there was a guitar solo. After all, what’s the point of hiring all that technical excellence and not putting it on display? 

The band played a second night in Atlantic City with an identical setlist – though expect this to change over the course of the tour. Although they did not play Bastard on either night, that old Shout at the Devil favorite was one of a number of tracks John 5 had been teasing online.

Crüe are on the road with Def Leppard on the World Tour. Their two-night stand at Atlantic City’s 7,000 capacity Etess Arena will be followed on February 18 in Mexico City. Saturday afternoon, in Mexico, at a Crüe show… Should be a lively one. See Mötley Crüe for full dates.

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Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to publications including Guitar World, MusicRadar and Total Guitar. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.