May 24, 2014
Dallas, TX USA
Review by Tim Taylor
Photos by Michael Insuaste
The Winery Dogs
The Long Hard Road Ends With The Winery Dogs
Thanks to music geeks like Eddie Trunk, the Winery Dogs are the most talked about new band in rock right now. Their self-titled debut album for Loud & Proud Records made every critic's top ten list in 2013, but everyone knew that a band with Mike Portnoy on drums, Billy Sheehan on bass, and Richie Kotzen on guitar and vocals was something that needed to be experienced live to gain a full appreciation of it.
The crowd at the legendary Granada Theater was eagerly anticipating the first Winery Dogs performance in Dallas, and we were treated to a relentless rock n' roll show packed with finely crafted songs and awe-inspiring instrumental jams. As soon as the opening song "Elevate" began, it was evident that drummer Mike Portnoy was the best showman in the group, and would be a riot to watch all night. He's constantly twirling, breaking, and throwing his sticks, but he never misses a beat. At one point while playing "The Other Side," he left his kit and walked around the stage drumming on everything from his band mates' guitars to the amps and the floor. It's very cool to see his personality come out in bands like Adrenaline Mob and the Winery Dogs after many years of having to be perfectly precise on stage with Dream Theater.
The incredible Billy Sheehan is a lot of fun to watch as well, as he does things to his bass that don't look humanly possible. One minute he's moving up and down the neck doing his signature two-handed tapping, and then he punishes his bass when the hard rock parts of the songs kick in. Most of us just stood there in disbelief as he worked through a mind-boggling solo that led into the beautiful "You Saved Me". The songs are really enhanced by Sheehan's backing vocals, and we all lost our minds when he took over and sang the lead on a crushing version of Talas' "Shy Boy" that ended the show.
While Portnoy and Sheehan are among the most technically gifted at their instruments, Richie Kotzen is more of a passionate, soulful guitarist. He has the chops to keep up with the other two with no problem, but he's more about the feeling than the flash. His Ray Gillen-meets-Chris Cornell style vocals really shine on songs like "Desire" and the heartfelt "Regret," and he moved us with a mellow acoustic rendition of "Doin' What the Devil Says to Do" from his 2006 solo record Into the Black.
Watching these guys play "The Dying" was the highlight of the night, as a beautiful melody and melancholy vocals turned into a rage of intensity, with all three of them trying to outdo each other during a phenomenal instrumental jam that drew the biggest crowd reaction of the night. A cover of Gary Wright's "Love is Alive" was a nice change of pace, and gave the audience a chance to sing along at the end of the night.
After watching the Winery Dogs play for the first time, I was really amazed at the way they put their egos aside and shared the spotlight so well. The best thing about their performance was how well they fed off of each other during the songs. I'm pretty confident that no song is ever played the same way twice, which will keep it as fun and interesting for the band as it will for the fans. I know that Portnoy has a million other bands that he's playing with these days, but I hope this one lasts for a long time. These guys are too good together to make this a temporary gig.