THE WINERY DOGS, LIVE AT THE STATE THEATRE, SAINT PETERSBURG, FLORIDA, 15 OCTOBER 2015

By Emery Columna –

The Winery Dogs Hot Streak album is a great primer to prepare you for the sonic battering ram that is the power trio of Richie Kotzen, Mike Portnoy and Billy Sheehan in full on live performance.

So I position myself at the left side of the sound board because I like to get a dose of what the live mix is like by the sound man. The stage is set. I take in the sight of Billy Sheehan’s custom Hartke rig stage left and Richie Kotzen’s twin signature Cornford RK100 half stacks at stage right. In the middle is Mike Portnoy’s custom racked Tama and Sabian batterie veiled in black until they launch into the first song of the night, Oblivion.

I am immediately bathed in Richie’s glorious power chords and soak in the lower frequencies of Billy’s bass and Mike’s kick drum. Although there were about 200 people in front of me, The Winery Dogs managed to create this wind that penetrated the crowd in front of me and passed through my body. It is something you have to experience for yourself.

Richie and his Fender Telecaster rode a sonic surfboard on top of this massive musical tidal wave created by Billy and Mike, one of the best rhythm sections in all of Rock music today.

The set was evenly balanced, giving equal weight to each of The Winery Dogs’ albums. Trust me, when you go to one of their shows, you will get your money’s worth and then some. For this night, it was Arena Rock crammed into this cute little shoe box of a venue.

The Winery Dogs are adept at mixing Hard Rock with gentler songs. The first 7 songs were Hard Rock that was so deep and powerful, my ancestors felt it!

Once again, I have to give Richie all due respect for a voice that is on par with Chris Cornell. One has to possess a very strong voice in order to match the powerful rhythm tandem of Billy and Mike. A weaker voice would get lost in the mix. Richie plays his Fender Telecaster without a pick and the flesh on metal attack on the strings yields a tone that is Richie’s all alone. NO ONE sounds like Richie.

The mid set interlude was a time for the gentle ballad, Fire, featuring Richie playing acoustic guitar. The audience participation was great on this song and was a definite Bic flicker, but the facility is no smoking, so there were no lighters burning on this one. Also of note was the presence of many women in the crowd singing the chorus of Fire for Richie to his great delight. So that was Richie’s showcase…

The band eased into the back end of the set with the groovy electric piano song, Think It Over, which highlighted Richie’s keyboard skills, acquired since the age of 5.

Next up was Mike Portnoy’s showcase which featured his technical prowess on drums. Mike did not disappoint. I think it was 7 minutes of sheer power AND finesse in equal parts. Personally, I heard Neil Peart and Dennis Chambers projecting from Mike’s Tama tubs and Sabian cymbals. This righteous display of power melded seamlessly into The Other Side…

Only to make way for Billy Sheehan to showcase his skills on Electric Bass guitar. Billy’s got this really kool rig where his Yamaha Attitude Bass output jacks split off into two channels of his Hartke amp. One for clean and one for dirty. Billy got dirty and played some incredible LEAD bass guitar for what seemed like 8 minutes. Billy really doesn’t slap, he taps and demonstrated these profound skills during his solo. Once again, I will state that there is no one in Rock who is anywhere close to where Billy is on the instrument.

Not Hopeless, I’m No Angel and Elevate closed out the set strong. The band is solid.

Of course, the well behaved crowd at The State Theatre would not let The Winery Dogs leave so easily, so the dogs came out for two encores: the groovy keyboard laden Regret and a funky version of Desire to send the crowd off into the Florida night on a high note.

OK, so now I will say it. Right now, The Winery Dogs are one of the best Rock bands on The Planet. If they ever come anywhere close to your neck of the woods, you should go.

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