With just two albums under their belt, The Winery Dogs are already being hailed as the saviors of rock ‘n’ roll and the new generation of supergroups. Their electrifying concert Saturday night at a jam-packed Gas Monkey Live! in Dallas turned all the hype into reality.
The Winery Dogs consist of Richie Kotzen on guitars and vocals (Poison, Mr. Big), Billy Sheehan on bass (Steve Vai, David Lee Roth) and Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Avenged Sevenfold) on drums. Unlike other supergroups, this band fires on all cylinders with each member utilizing their talents to full potential on every song, not just individual solos. At any time during Saturday night’s concert, one could zero in on a particular band member and be completely mesmerized by their performance. Sheehan’s bass playing was so aggressive that I was expecting his bass guitar to snap in half at any moment. Kotzen’s fiery guitar licks with no pick had me expecting to see blood dripping from his fingertips. Last not but not least, Portnoy’s enthusiasm behind the drum kit was a joy to watch.
The Winery Dogs started their show with two new tracks, “Oblivion” and “Captain Love.” Though the songs were just released on the album Hot Streak a few weeks ago, you wouldn’t have known it by the crowd’s reaction. Both songs had the audience singing along so loud that it drowned out Kotzen’s vocals. By the time the group got to the album’s title track it was apparent by the energy in the building that indeed The Winery Dogs were on a hot streak.
Other songs that had the Gas Monkey Live! crowd roaring with approval were “Empire” and “The Other Side.” Both songs featured blistering guitar work by Kotzen along with energetic endings that had everyone in the building moving some part of their body. Just as impressive as his guitar playing are Kotzen’s introspective lyrics and amazing vocals. Both had a chance to shine when Kotzen performed a solo acoustic version of “Fire” and the organ-driven “Think it Over.” The latter showcased Kotzen’s R&B and soul influences. The song concluded with a gripping falsetto high note that Kotzen held for several seconds as the crowd held their breath, captivated by the beauty of the moment.
Another part of the show that had the crowd watching along in amazement was Billy Sheehan’s bass solo. In short, it was masterful. Lasting several minutes, Sheehan paced the stage while frantically fingering his bass, producing sounds that no one would think possible.
While Sheehan’s solo led to several dropped jaws, Portnoy’s drum solo led to plenty of smiles as he dragged out a little Hello Kitty drum set. Banging wildly on the set, Portnoy then continued his solo by banging his sticks on the stage floor and then on the video camera in the pit that was capturing the excitement for fans in the back of the venue.
The Winery Dogs wrapped up the main set with the hits “I’m No Angel” and “Elevate.” Indeed, it felt like the band had taken live performances to a whole new level. But surprisingly, it was the closing song of the night that solidified the band’s supergroup status. On record, “Desire” is a hard rocking tune. While the live version started out that way, The Winery Dogs extended the song into an all-out Motown and James Brown jam piece with Sheehan providing some of the lead vocals. It was another magical moment that had the band coming together as a whole and redefining the true meaning of supergroup.
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