About a year and a half ago I was lucky enough to witness the power and fury of THE WINERY DOGS live in Dallas, TX. It was without a doubt one of the best shows of 2014, and the trio of Richie Kotzen (guitar/vocals), Billy Sheehan (bass/vocals), and Mike Portnoy (drums/vocals) truly defined what a well-oiled machine is in a live setting. Fast forward to now, and yours truly has since moved back in Philly, and was once again able to catch the band, this time at The Keswick Theatre in Glenside, PA. It’s a very old venue, in its own little village, there’s not a bad seat in the house, and the sound system is great. I loved it.
At 9:15 sharp THE WINERY DOGS came onstage to raucous cheers and applause. Launching into a double shot from new album Hot Streak, we were treated to first single “Oblivion” and “Captain Love” before the debut record made its first appearance with “We Are One.”
With two amazing albums under their belts the guys chose a well-balanced setlist of eight tunes from each. Since Hot Streak was just released days prior you could tell how excited they were to perform the new stuff in front of the fans, starting with the title track and then moving into “How Long”, easily one of their most addictive choruses yet.
“Time Machine” sounded better than its studio counterpart before one of my two favorite new ones was played in “Empire.” The fantastic groove on this number had toes tapping and heads bobbing all around! Billy and Mike then exited the stage as Richie pulled out an acoustic guitar for a solo rendition of “Fire”. A close friend of his passed away that morning, so he dedicated this song, and the whole show to her.
Now…I’m gonna get real serious for a minute here. The tribute was moving and beautiful, yet there were quite a few people headed for the beer lines. I was saddened and disappointed to see that. If someone is up there singing their heart out to honor a fallen friend, YOU SIT IN YOUR SEAT AND YOU SHOW SOME RESPECT…PERIOD.
From here we ventured into some vintage organ territory with “Think It Over”, one of Richie’s most soulful vocal jobs yet and you could feel how impressive it was to those hearing it for the first time. A mini drum solo from Portnoy started “The Other Side” which was rockin’ hard and then turned into an extended jam led first by Sheehan doing his thing, then Kotzen simply wailing away. Billy treated us to a solo next, reminding us why he is simply a king of that four-string thing before “Not Hopeless” had the faithful moving again.
My #1 favorite song from Hot Streak “Ghost Town” was just phenomenal and if I had my way they’d have played it twice more before moving on. “I’m No Angel” was gorgeous and is still one of the best songs written not just by them, but by anyone in the last few years, especially live. “Desire” brought the house down and the main set to a close, but by no means were they done yet.
The encore started on a more subdued note with “Regret” but make no mistake, when that song kicks in, it KICKS IN. And of course, the one that started it all, “Elevate” capped off a thunderous night of rock and roll done the right way. Once again THE WINERY DOGS showed every other band out there how it’s done. Their live show is a clinic and should be required viewing/listening for every young musician who picks up an instrument. I’ve never seen three guys look like they’re having the time of their lives up there like they do!
I also want to give a big A&GS THANK YOU to Rich and the rest of the staff working the entrance for being beyond accommodating and treating us really well. You can bet I’ll be a patron of The Keswick for life now. And for those of you who STILL haven’t seen THE WINERY DOGS live….what the hell are you waiting for?!?
LIVE WORDS: THE MAESTRO
LIVE PHOTOS: MIKE SIEVILA PHOTOGRAPHY