Largo, Fla.–Admit it. We all have expectations when we go to concerts. Some meet them. Some don’t. Then there are the rare occasions when a show exceeds, or should I say, blows away your expectations. This was the case Thursday night at the Largo Cultural Center. The Winery Dogs were in town to support their self-titled debut that came out in July of 2013. If you don’t know who The Winery Dogs are, you might or should be familiar with these musicians: Richie Kotzen on vocals and guitar, Billy Sheehan on bass and Mike Portnoy on drums, of course. The three of them are very accomplished musicians with their previous bands and together they form a synchronized, well-oiled “Supergroup.”
I have been anxiously waiting for The Winery Dogs show since it was announced that they were coming to Largo. I’ve always loved Billy Sheehan as a bass player; from playing with David Lee Roth on the classic Eat Em and Smile, to his many years in another super-group, the hugely successful, Mr. Big. I have considered Billy Sheehan one of the top two bass players in the industry: The other being Steve Harris of Iron Maiden. Steve Harris-Billy Sheehan, Billy Sheehan-Steve Harris. Either way, you won’t get an argument from me. They both play with a style, a technique and a flair that is undeniably their own and a sound that is as recognizable as Axl Rose’s vocals or Eddie Van Halen on guitar. They also brought the bass guitar out from back half of the stage to the forefront and made the bass attractive for young musicians to play. Cliff Burton could also be included in the top bass players in history discussion, but Harris and Sheehan have been afforded longevity, where, unfortunately for himself and all fans of music, Cliff Burton was not.
Entering the Largo Cultural Center for the second time in as many months, I noticed there was a big change. There were no seats in the Largo Cultural Center tonight. When Rocket Sports & Entertainment recently reviewed the Red Dragon Cartel Show with Jake E. Lee, the facility was set up with theater-type seating with small floor area in front of the stage. Throughout that show most of the people that were originally seated moved up to the floor with a little push from Eddie Trunk. (The Red Dragon Cartel review with pictures can be read here http://www.rocketsports-ent.com/a-legend-returns-to-shred/)
Being brought together with a little help from Eddie Trunk of That Metal Show, The Winery Dogs took the stage at 7:40 p.m. and opened up with “Elevate.” “Elevate” was The Winery Dogs’ first single from their debut release, and it has charted better than most rock albums, placing 27th on the US Billboard 200, and has hit these other industry marks:
- #3 – Top Alternative Albums
- #4 – Top Independent Albums
- #4 – Tastemakers
- #5 – Top Rock Albums
- #8 – Top Internet Albums
- #30 – Canada Top Internet Albums
I have noticed a trend by bands recently in regard to their set lists. From a few weeks back at Rockville and with “Elevate” being played first tonight, bands have been getting the crowd going early by playing their most recent single first in their set. Not waiting for the encore which always seemed to be the norm in the past. “Elevate” is one of The Winery Dogs more rocking up tempo songs and was the perfect opener for tonight. Next up was “Criminal” and then “One More Time” with drummer Mike Portnoy addressing the crowd and thanking them for coming out and their continued support.
Portnoy is a monster in the percussion business. Having made his mark in Dream Theatre and then as the touring drummer in Avenged Sevenfold, and most recently, recording and touring with a new beast on the scene in Adrenaline Mob, Mike Portnoy continues to evolve as a player and knows when and where to pick his spots. He has once done this brilliantly again by aligning himself with Billy Sheehan and Richie Kotzen. Speaking of Richie Kotzen, I have a new found appreciation of his talent. I was only familiar with his playing from his limited time in Poison, but I always knew how well respected he is in the music community. His range is immense: Not only as a guitar player, but also as a vocalist. From blues to soul to straight up rock, Richie Kotzen transitions with the best of them. Standing alone on stage as a lone blue light shined upon him, Kotzen played “Doing What the Devil Made Me Do,” and emotion oozed from his voice and guitar. The crowd was mesmerized, hanging on his every note. Kotzen could of carried tonight’s show all by himself if he had to, as could all three of them: That’s what makes The Winery Dogs so special. On a side note ( pun intended ) Kotzen didn’t use a pick throughout the entire set…
Portnoy and Sheehan returned to the stage and continued the main set with “I’m No Angel,” “The Dying,” and “Desire.” Afterwards the guys took a small break and returned with their encore in “Regret.” “Regret” once again showcased Kotzen’s versatility as he played a shiny sapphire piano/organ. I didn’t think they were going to close the night with this song as it seemed a little too mellow for tonight’s crowd, and, thankfully I was correct as The Winery Dogs closed their set with the Talas cover, and Sheehan’s landmark song, “Shy Boy.” Most will remember “Shy Boy” not from Talas but from the Eat Em Smile release. This sent the crowd home shaking their heads in amazement. Not only from the individual performances that they witnessed throughout the night, but through the combined efforts by three ultra-talented and humble musicians.
A lot of super-groups come and go. Hopefully with the continued success of their release and sold out venues throughout the country, this will not be the last time that we hear The Winery Dog’s sonic bark.
For more information on The Winery Dogs including tour dates, check out http://www.thewinerydogs.com/
Setlist: Elevate Criminal * We Are One * One More Time * Time Machine * Damaged * Six Feet Deeper (Including snippet of Hey Joe) * The Other Side * Bass Solo * You Saved Me * Not Hopeless * Doin’ What the Devil Says to Do (Richie Kotzen song) * I’m No Angel * The Dying * Desire * (Encore) Regret * Shy Boy