Members of Alice in Chains, Heart, Guns N’ Roses + More Lead ‘Rock Against MS’ Event in L.A. [Photos]
Rock Against MS began in March 2013 after publicist Nancy B. Sayle was diagnosed with MS, and Billy Idol guitarist Steve Stevens had the idea of a benefit concert. For the past five years there has been an annual event as well as smaller events throughout the year featuring members of the rock and metal community benefitting those with MS. To commemorate the 5th annual Rock Against MS concert, the show was moved to the historic Los Angeles Theatre in downtown L.A. after four years at the Whisky-A-Go-Go.
The event started with a red carpet ceremony attended by a mix of celebrities from film and TV as well as most of the musicians performing that night. There was also a silent auction including guitars signed by Pearl Jam, Eric Clapton and Aerosmith, as well as records signed by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, Johnny Cash and Aerosmith. Movie fans could also bid on a cast-signed Godfather poster and James Bond items singed by actors from Sean Connery to Daniel Craig.
The show was hosted by comedians Bill Burr and Craig Gass, while Jim Florentine from That Metal Show also filled time between songs. This year's event honored the late comedian Richard Pryor, who struggled with MS for many years until his passing in 2005. An award was given to Pryor’s widow Jennifer-Lee Pryor in his honor. Awards similar to platinum records were also given to musicians that have been performed at each annual concert including former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke and singer/actress Gretchen Bonaduce. The show opened with some comedy from hosts Burr and Gass followed by a tribute to musicians lost in 2016, including Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, Prince, David Bowie and Maurice White with Foreigner members Jeff Pilson, Chris Frazier, and Bruce Watson, Dug Pinnick (King’s X), Liv Warfield (New Power Generation), Joe Retta (Sweet), Gretchen Bonduce and Tanya O’Callaghan all onstage for the salute.
Jim Florentine came out to speak ahead of a metal tribute to late Megadeth drummer Nick Menza, who had performed at Rock Against MS a few years prior, and Dio's Jimmy Bain, who also passed last year, as well. Joe Retta, Scotti Hill (Skid Row), Howie Simon (Alcatrazz), Marty O’Brien (Lita Ford) and Shawn Duncan (Odin) were among those paying homage.
After a performance by tribute band Queen Nation, Gass and Burr introduced the next group of musicians. Whitesnake members MIchael Devin and Joel Hoekstra, Sarzo brothers Rudy and Robert, Tiny Biuso (TSOL), Rodger Carter (John 5), Phil Buckman (Filter), Matt Starr (Mr. Big), Dug Pinnick, Bruce Watson, and Ace Von Johnson (Faster Pussycat) all jammed for the audience, bringing the show to the halfway mark.
Richie Kotzen and his band of Mike Bennett and Dylan WIlson performed and were later joined by special guest Billy Sheehan who plays with Kotzen in the Winery Dogs. A tribute to Richard Pryor followed, with a video featuring photos from various film appearances followed by video clips including Bernie Mac, Whoopi Goldberg, Jamie Foxx and Margaret Cho all talking about their appreciation for the legendary comedian.
The next all-star jam featured Gilby Clarke and Teddy Zigzag who were both part of Guns N’ Roses, along with bassist E.J. Curse and drummer Troy Patrick Farrell. After a few songs Gilby was joined by original Guns N’ Roses drummer Steven Adler, Jeff Pilson, and Ace Von Johnson for The Ramones' “I Wanna Be Sedated.” The lineup changed once again for Gn'R’s “Rocket Queen" and "Welcome to the Jungle,” with Adler, Patrick Stone (Budderside), Pilson, Hoekstra, and Robert Sarzo raising the energy level in the room.
The penultimate performance of the evening was with Jerry Cantrell and Mike Inez from Alice In Chains, who were joined by the event’s headliner and special honoree Nancy Wilson (Heart) for part of their set. As Cantrell and Inez left the stage, Wilson remained to close the night with the debut of her new band Roadcase Royale with Heart members Ben Smith, Dan Rothchild, and Chris Jaynor, as well as Liv Warfield and her NPG musical director/lead guitarist Ryan Waters for new songs and the Heart classic “Crazy On You.” The night finished with all of those who had played throughout the night returning for an all-star jam on AC/DC's "It's a Long Way to the Top."
See photos from the Rock Against MS benefit show in Los Angeles in the gallery above.
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