Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Winery Dogs - Live In Sacramento (God Bless The Winery Dogs)

The Winery Dogs pulled into Sacramento for a show at Harlow's Night Club last night, and proceeded to blow the roof off the joint. You know I'm given to hyperbole, but if you know of a three piece with more bonafide fire power than Richie Kotzen, Billy Sheehan, and Mike Portnoy, let me know. Thankfully, the stage was small, so my attention couldn't drift from anyone for long, not that they'd let you. There were the obligatory solo spots, but when you have such brilliance occurring in every song, I wonder how necessary they are, except as a device for everyone to get a breather for a few moments.

They came out with their best shot, Elevate, and the crowd went bonkers, singing every word, and plunging fists skyward at the appropriate instrumental moments. This show, by all rights, should be happening in a larger venue, but that's more about the messed up states of our economy and our radio at this point.

I almost called this review Portnoy's Complaint, but that's too gimmicky, and I'll explain - there was a point in the festivities where not everybody's favorite drummer (but arguably the best drummer in rock - at least I think so) got a little pissed at some shitty lighting cues and he had a go at his microphone stand. I would have been pissed, too, and he followed his mini-tirade with even better, even more intense playing. I don't know why anyone gives the guy any stick, but I'm guessing it's because he's a very flashy drummer in a time when shoe gazing and false humility have value. Whether it's as a hard rock basher with both finesse and furiosity (yeah, I know it's not a word, but dig it), or as a technical magician with his other projects, the guy has his world by the ass and ain't afraid to let your world know it. I call that rock - look up The Who if you don't get it. For my money, Portnoy is currently the most valuable player on the planet.

Richie Kotzen - could it be that he's been this brilliant all along, and just never had a band that reflected that brilliance appropriately? I'm not sure who's been in his bands, and I'm sure they've been good, but maybe just not quite this good. I was disappointed when I heard this project lost John Sykes as a frontman, but that's me missing Sykes on the scene more than anything - Kotzen is a better fit. He's looser and more off the cuff than the ex-Whitesnake guitarist, and his bluesy take on hard rock puts me in mind of a guy with Marriott's voice, but also with blinding skills as a guitarist. In this setting the world should now get the greatness of Kotzen's astounding musicality.

Then there's Billy Sheehan - he looks like he's having so much fun with this band, it's fantastic - mind you, he's always happy when he's playing, but watching him exchange huge riffs and grins with Portnoy throughout the set is a joy to behold. I often wonder how much his audiences realize - he's rock's most established bassist by a few blocks. Sure there are plenty of other great players, but no one combines technique with groove to this extent. And, he can sing - every time he went for the mic, I smiled - he's spent endless hours doing classic covers early in his career, and you can still hear the right markers.

So, there's a blurb on each fellow, but it's as a band that this bunch shines. They remind me of a stripped down Humble Pie, but with even better chops. I've been spending a lot of quality time with the new 4 disc set from Marrott and company, and it's been great to remember just how well versed was that classic British band. They all sang, they played with intensity and passion, and they all gave it 110%, and the same can be said of The Dogs. When I first heard their debut, I wondered if the listening public would be listening close enough, and by God, they were. The crowd last night was with them for every step, and by the time they slid into their encore with the Elvin Bishop classic, Fooled Around And Fell In Love, it was a love affair.

I'm not going to get into specific moments and songs here - suffice to say that they played the album brilliantly, they busted out a few old nuggets, and the best is surely yet to come. But what a great start this band is off to - you could see it in their eyes as they rifled through the first few songs - yes, even American audiences grasp it, dig it, and love it. They've already wooed much of the world, and now they are barnstorming across the States - I insist that you get off your ass and see them - you'll be damned glad you did. This is real rock being done right, and it's to damned good too not continue - nope, Rock Ain't Near Dead....

Am I crazy for thinking they ought to add Whole Lotta Love to the encores? Just me, thinking that they'd sound so good playing that, and the sheer bravado would fit.


  1. (Poison cover)
  2. (Richie Kotzen song)
  3. (Mr. Big cover)
  4. Encore:
  5. (Elvin Bishop cover)

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