In 2011, bassist Billy Sheehan (Steve Vai, David Lee Roth, Talas, Mr. Big) and drummer Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Avenged Sevenfold, Adrenaline Mob) were ending a tentative project and looking for a vocalist/guitarist for a new project . That Metal Show host Eddie Trunk suggested they contact Richie Kotzen (Poison, Mr. Big). The Winery Dogs became a rock super-trio and released a self-titled debut album in 2013. The Winery Dogs' second album, Hot Streak, was released on October 2, 2015.
At the PlayStation Theater tonight, the staging was minimalistic: to one side, a Hartke bass rig; on the opposite side, a Cornell guitar rig; in the center, a modest (for Portnoy) drum kit; a simple backdrop of the band’s logo hung on the back wall. No blinding lights, fog or other gimmicks introduced the band, save for George Clinton’s "Atomic Dog" blasting through the sound system. Portnoy, Sheehan, and lastly Kotzen walked out on stage and similarly avoided rock star trappings and concentrated only on the music that three super-talented musicians could make together. The classic-sounding rock trio charged cohesively into "Oblivion" and "Captain Love," the first two tracks from the new album. The band's 16-song set, eight songs from each of the band's two albums, showcased the three members' musical acrobatics individually and corporately. Each performed an extended solo with tasteful grace. Kotzen shined particularly with masterful finger-picking on his electric guitars; he also played an acoustic guitar on a new song, "Fire" (perhaps the only song in which he used a pick), and a keyboard on "Think It Over." While the musical virtuosity was mind-blowing, the band demonstrated two liabilities that has stunted it from supergroup mega-audiences: Kotzen's soulful, smoky vocals were often strained, and the band's well-tempered tension-and-release songs often were overshadowed by their prominent musical proficiency. Despite these weaknesses, the sonic big picture was astounding.
Visit the Winery Dogs at www.thewinerydogs.com.