Words and Pictures: Robert Cavuoto
The Winery Dogs performed at the Sony Music Hall in New York on Friday, May 3rd for the Who Let the Dogs Out Tour 2019; a 21 date tour that will take the band across the United States. The Winery Dogs are a powerhouse musical trio featuring three of the rock world’s most talented musicians – Richie Kotzen a guitar phenom, Mike Portnoy drummer extraordinaire, and Billy Sheehan the master bassist. Three legendary musicians poised on the cusp of greatness, whose star wattage could illuminate New York City with their presence and chemistry.
The band hasn’t toured in over three years since their 2016 CD, Hot Streak which skyrocketed to #30 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart. As of now, there are no plans to record a new CD; it’s just a tour to get out and jam for the fans.
The band appears on stage with their minimalistic stage set up; just Billy’s Hartke bass rig and Richie’s white Victory amp stack placed neatly on either side of Mike’s drum riser with a backdrop of the band’s logo. No videos, effects or smoke screens were needed to enhance their performance. The band clearly wanted the audience to pay attention to what they were doing – it was all about the visual element that affects the sound!
Blazing through the perfect combination of songs from their debut CD and Hot Steak, the band opened with “Elevate” and never looked back for their 90 minute set which included “Oblivion,” “Captain Love,” “Time Machine,” “Damaged” “Ghost Town,” and one of Richie’ solo songs called “The Road” which he performed on the piano. In all 15 songs were performed.
The songs were played with a level of perfection that left fans in awe of their musical abilities. Richie’s soulfully voice enhanced the ballads and drove the rock songs home with an edgy bite. Armed with his signature tobacco burst Fender Telecaster and Fender crème Stratocaster, his playing was superb and masterful; everything was done with the touch of his fingers. I asked Richie about his playing style of not using a guitar pick, and he told me, “A lot of people don’t realize that before I abandoned the guitar pick, I was still using my fingers to pull the strings. So not a lot has changed for me. The attack comes from plucking and striking the strings in almost a Flamingo style motion where you are hitting the string with the top of your nails. You have more tonal actions at your disposal. Don’t get me wrong, when I’m in the studio, if I need a certain sound, I’ll grab a guitar pick. For live situations, I have adopted this style of not using the pick.”
Billy Sheehan is a master of the bass, all ten fingers constantly moving at breakneck speed. His playing on each song was like a mini bass solo with an incredible amount of notes per measure. All done in a tasteful way to balance the guitar and yet playing in the pocket of the drums.
Mike Portnoy is a powerhouse drummer, dazzling the crowd with complex drumming techniques, pounding out the rhythms and doing simply stick tricks which always got the crowd applauding and laughing. On the last encore of the night, he dismantled one of his cymbal stands and tossed it off stage; the audience loved every minute of it.
Like a well-oiled machine each member working in perfect harmony with the other. All parts equally as essential and intricate to the sum of the whole. Somehow they made their style of playing look easy, but in reality, the technical proficiency of their playing was out of most people’s reach!
Tonight’s New York was only the band’s fourth show of the tour, and it was a mind-altering and eye-opening experience for everyone in attendance tonight. It’s a must-see show that you have to add your concert list. The Dogs have been gone too long, and it was great to see them back on stage together doing what they do best!
Former American Idol winner Caleb Johnson, who has a new CD coming out on June 12th, opened the show with a soulful and heartfelt acoustic set the warmed the crowd up perfectly for The Dogs.