I am pleased to report that rock and roll isn’t dead. The empirical proof was a recent performance of the Winery Dogs at “Freebird Live” in Jacksonville Beach. The cool venue brought me back to my youth and the great bands I saw in a little hole in the wall, “My Father’s Place” on Long Island.
Since I am now a geezer, I have strong opinions on what is and what isn’t rock and roll. A dilettante that refuses to perform and creates a riot in Montreal is not rock and roll to me. Snappy videos of a group cavorting on exercise equipment like they are in a Busby Berkeley musical doesn’t cut it for me either. A dusty, love bug splattered tour bus (toting a modest equipment trailer) embodies rock and roll in my world.
The word super group has become a cliché. The Winery Dogs have earned that title and the three members are equally and supremely talented. A power trio can be a risky enterprise. You are exposed on that stage and you either deliver the goods or you don’t. These veterans played their hearts out and didn’t hide behind pyrotechnics, banks of synthesizers, double necked guitars, or choreographed backup singers. Just three guys with a guitar, drums, and a bass guitar. Richie Kotzen also played piano on the poignant “Regret” during the three song encore.
In this standing room only crowd, these artists created a wall of sound that Phil Spector would envy. The mastery of their respective instruments was jaw dropping. I quickly observed why Mike Portnoy is a perennial winner of accolades in every drum publication out there. His energy and passion are unbridled. Aside from skilled, he is very theatrical and animated. It is no wonder that Billy Sheehan is respected as one of the top bass players in the genre. He put on a clinic with his overall performance and astonishing solo. The ‘kid’ in the group is 44 year old Richie Kotzen. He has evolved as an artist from his breakthrough instructional video ‘Rock Chops’ that he created as a 19 year old. Kotzen is a prolific writer, has a soulful voice, and his guitar skills are ridiculous. When the band played “Hey Joe,” he almost seemed to channel Jimi Hendrix. I’ve often wondered, “Why is this guy not more famous?”
It was evident that these guys like each other, love what they do, and truly appreciate their fans. Portnoy is involved in a myriad of side projects. He has indicated that the Winery Dogs will be his primary focus. That is great news for rock purists like me.