The Winery Dogs Experience Part I: Live At Granada Theater – 5/24/14

p39799897-5Have you seen THE WINERY DOGS live yet? Well if you haven’t, stop what you’re doing and check to see when and if they are playing somewhere in driving distance from you. Almost a year after their debut was released the power trio of Richie Kotzen, Billy Sheehan (look for our interview with him soon!), and Mike Portnoy finally made it to Dallas before a packed house at Granada Theater. This was my first time there and man is the place beautiful. Everything is perfect, from lines of sight to lighting. You can bet I’ll be coming to a lot more shows here. My buddy Ryan from Ardent Owl Media was good enough to take the pictures you see here before you, and while he was shooting my other good friend Hannah and I had a blast rockin’ out.

First things first, I HAVE to give it up for opening band CHARM CITY DEVILS. I had never heard note one from them but they surely gained three new fans in us that night. It’s rare that a warm-up act comes out with as much piss and vinegar as they did, plus they had the chops to back it up. Lead singer John Allen and company definitely had something to prove, and prove it they did. I love real thick, bottom-heavy bass lines and that’s exactly what Anthony Arambula laid down as they tore through songs from latest album Sins as well as 2009’s Let’s Rock N’ Roll. Notable standouts to a first-timer like me were “Devil Is a Woman”, “Spite”, and an amazing rendition of “Man of Constant Sorrow” during which the grin on Hannah’s face was ear-to-ear and with good reason. Again, they were VERY impressive.

p179263937-5As the clock struck ten THE WINERY DOGS came out firing with “Elevate” and from my vantage point on Billy’s side of the stage all I could do was watch with jaw agape at three master chefs serving us a musical four-course meal. Not a note out of place with these guys, consummate professionals, but they also know how to have fun as evidenced by the smiles on each one’s faces throughout the night. One of my favorites in “Criminal” was next with that slow grind I love so much and then came “We Are One” after which Richie asked, “Are we one, Dallas??” You can imagine the roar that greeted him on that one, right? Clearly we’d been waiting a long time for this show and made our appreciation known. I can’t even tell you how many times over the course of the evening that my two friends and I looked at each other in wide-eyed awe at what was transpiring on that stage.

As I said in my album review, “One More Time” brings us into what I like to call “summer territory”, and on a night like this it was the perfect soundtrack to raise a glass with friends. The cool thing about “Time Machine” is that it seems like it’s such a dark song at first, but as it gets further in there’s a big hook involved and live it definitely shows off the collective talents in the group, Portnoy and Sheehan having some fun in the middle section, with Kotzen soloing his ass off over the final frenetic minute and change.

p239943159-5“Damaged” was a nice change of pace and Kotzen’s voice can only be described as soulful on this one. There’s a longing there that I don’t think anyone else could pull off, honestly.

It was back to kicking asses for “Six Feet Deeper” and “The Other Side”, a couple of bangers made for a maniac like Ryan to drive to, and they had the place movin’ and groovin’. Sandwiched between them was a brief cover of “Hey Joe”, too. Now it was time for Mr. Billy Sheehan to give us a bass solo and once again remind us why he is one of the best players in the world at his instrument. Once I wrapped my head around that he then went into the syncopated beginning of “You Saved Me”, another favorite for yours truly and an evening highlight as well. “Not Hopeless” delivered some more straight-ahead rock for everyone. One thing about this band, they know how to pace a show right!

p222756360-5While Mike and Billy took a little break Richie threw on the acoustic and treated us to a stripped-down version of “Doin’ What the Devil Says to Do”…just his voice and a guitar. It was outstanding, and further proof that this man has one of the best voices in rock and roll right now…PERIOD. You’d be hard pressed to find someone out there who can convey such emotion like he does. I know there are others, but they are few and far between. Further evidence could be found as the guys played “I’m No Angel” my ABSOLUTE favorite from them and also a contender for the A&GS 2013 Song of the Year. It’s one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. I had the chance to tell Billy that in our interview and I swear when he saw me going bananas to it he pointed to me, smiled, and gave me the thumbs-up, like, “Here you go, Damian. It’s your song, man!”

(I’m sure that’s not what he was thinking, but man it was still cool to connect for just that moment. Isn’t that what this is all about anyway?)

One of the slow, jazzy, bluesy numbers, “The Dying” from the album was next followed by “Desire” to close out the regular set with a vengeance. Of course the evening was far from over. For the encore, the band busted out a cover of Gary Wright’s “Love Is Alive” before smoldering on another blues tune “Regret”. And for the last song…for the last song they pulled out “Shy Boy” from Billy’s old band TALAS! Sheehan sang lead on the first verse, Portnoy on the second, and then we had a lil’ guitar and bass duel action to bring it all home. Never in my life did I think Billy Sheehan was capable of some of the high-pitched wails he let out during this one, and it was the perfect end to a perfect night of rock and roll done right by THE WINERY DOGS. Richie, Mike, and Billy, thank you for coming to Dallas and reminding everyone what a REAL band sounds like!


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