Please forgive the salty title. It’s just that regaled rocker Richie Kotzen recently elevated his presence on the world musical stage as a member, lead singer, guitarist and frontman for the acclaimed supergroup called The Winery Dogs. The power trio also includes legends Mike Portnoy and Billy Sheehan and together they stormed around the world in the past five years on the strength of their first two platters of original material. Kotzen is taking the opportunity of a break in their activity to play out in support of his latest release Salting Earth with a tour stop that landed at the City Winery in Nashville on May 22, 2017.
This fast-paced five-week outing in the United States finds Kotzen just where he wants to be. That is, at home on stage promoting his impressive twenty-second solo record as a significant and important musician in his own right.
“I’ve been a solo artist since I was 18-years old,” Kotzen told Nashville radio host Rockin’ Rich Lynch prior to his gig in Music City. “The Winery Dogs thing is really cool. The reality is I was not looking to start a band. I always wanted to write songs, record them and perform them. So, the people that I always paid attention to were solo artists. Be it Prince or Jimi Hendrix or Stevie Wonder I was always a guy that got into an artist.”
His time in the pound with those other powerful players brought Kotzen to greater recognition resulting in droves of fans of all ages really getting into him as an artist. Like man’s best friend they are showing their loyalty by supporting this recent trek as witnessed by the vocal and appreciative audience on a Monday night in Tennessee. But, will Richie still run with the pack that got him here?
“I’m not saying the band is over, but I think it’s time for a break from band life,” Kotzen told Lynch, adding, “I miss myself. But, it was time for me to get back to doing what I’m doing and I’m excited about the new record.”
That new album was heavily featured during Kotzen’s nearly two-hour showcase at the classy City Winery where even that venue’s management couldn’t resist making a wine connection with the artist offering a signature boutique bottle of wine with Richie’s face plastered on the label.
Kotzen was impressive on the axe all night long. He utilized various techniques along with a bounty of blistering leads drawing upon his heavy metal roots. Several forays into funk proved his renowned versatility and eclectic taste. Vocally, Richie easily handled a wide range of styles but he really excelled when he moved into the soul singer zone.
Kotzen played seventy percent of the dynamic and diverse new record for the knowledgeable audience in Music City that included seven of the album’s ten tracks. Richie moved between guitar and electric piano throughout the show opening with the spooky “End of Earth” with “Meds”, “My Rock”, “Cannon Ball”, “Grammy” and “This is Life” all following.
This was a winery after all and the show would not be complete without some additional vintage Kotzen. Richie complied with a broad sampling of songs from throughout his recording career as he poured out his talent and soul on one of Nashville’s most upscale stages. He dipped as far back as 1994 for “Socialite” from Mother Head’s Family Reunion his first post-Poison solo album. The rest of the back catalogue showcased songs from his most prolific period from the 2000’s on and included “Go Faster”, “Love Is Blind”, “Your Entertainer”, “I Would”, the fan favorite “Doin’ What the Devil Says to Do”, “Fear”, “Help Me” and “Fooled Again”.
Kotzen was perhaps a little looser as leader of his own band than the rock star we witnessed fronting The Winery Dogs. While he didn’t have too much to say he seemed content to let his music do the talking. Richie expressed himself through sudden movements of his hand or head seemingly moved by the moment. The configuration on stage was similar to that of the other band. The threesome featured Mike Bennett on drums and Dylan Wilson on bass with RK set up stage left with guitars and piano close by. But, without the other larger than life musicians from the canine collective up there with him there was no doubt who was top dog on this night.
Kotzen’s excursion around the globe will continue as he prepares to sprinkle his musical flavorings all over the planet with multiple dates in South America, Australia and Europe booked for the summer allowing him to fulfill his main mission in life.
“My real outlet is touring – playing live as much as I can, wherever I can, whenever I can,” he says enthusiastically. “It’s one of the few things you can’t copy, steal, or download. It’s an engaging human experience that’s a give-and-take between both the performer and the audience, and there is nothing else like it on this earth.”
Opening for Kotzen in Nashville was the local jazzy jam band Red Light Symphony who put the power in their power trio configuration as they put their crafty compositions on display. They showcased a half dozen mix of originals and covers that were all interwoven with skilled interplay between the three players. They received a warm ovation as they ended their set thanking the venue for their hospitality and the headliner for the opportunity that they made the most of.
The City Winery located at 609 Lafayette Street in Nashville is an upscale venue with an innovative menu and wine list. They continue to host an eclectic blend of artists such as Richie Kotzen. Upcoming events at the City Winery include The Subdudes, Micky Dolenz, Dave Mason, The Church and Dweezil Zappa.