Performing the first of two consecutive nights within the intimate confines of Potawatomi Casino’s Northern Lights Theater on Oct. 27, The Winery Dogs delivered a musically enriched live show for the packed house. Bringing together the talents of bass legend Billy Sheehan, drum master Mike Portnoy and singer/guitarist Richie Kotzen, the three-piece had no problem bringing the typically sedate theater crowd to its feet.
Touring on their sophomore album, “Hot Streak,” the trio has a natural chemistry that was obvious from the moment they stepped on stage. Launching into “Oblivion,” the first single from the album, Sheehan’s razor-sharp bass fretwork tied seamlessly into Portnoy’s driving percussion. Given their laurels, that was more than expected and they did not disappoint. However, Kotzen appeared more confident on this tour than the previous, taking his role to the next level with stage charisma, effortless vocals and the requisite guitar play that tied The Winery Dogs into a cohesive unit.
While best described as straight-up rock and roll, they blend the complex bass elements from Sheehan’s early work with Talas and Mr. Big, while drawing inspiration from the ’90s grunge scene. Kotzen has a Cornell-like vocal delivery that lends well to their overall sound, while his dark, curly locks and beard only help to fuel that comparison.
Portnoy quickly got the crowd out of their seats, exclaiming “I know it’s comfortable to site, that’s why I chose the drums; but it’s a a rock show. Get up!” Most followed suit–not an easy accomplishment in the lounge atmosphere and likely a first for the Northern Lights Theater. It was the music that kept them on their feet, from the sludgy riffs of “Time Machine” to the bluesy “I’m No Angel.” Sheehan split the set with a lengthy bass solo that showcased his immense talent, while Portnoy left his kit and playfully tapped a beat on the stage and a fan’s drink cup in lieu of his solo.
Kotzen shed his guitar for a keyboard on the ballad “Think It Over.” Unfortunately, something happened between that song and the encore, where they had to scrap the soulful “Regret” due to mechanical issues. Instead, they capped the night with the funk-infused “Desire.”
Remaining The Winery Dogs 2015 tour dates:
Oct. 28 – Milwaukee, Wis. @ Potowatami Casino
Oct. 29 – St. Charles, Ill. @ Arcada Theater
Oct. 31 – Denver, Colo. @ Marquis Theater
Nov. 2 – San Jose, Calif. @ Rock Bar
Nov. 3 – Anaheim, Calif. @ House of Blues
Nov. 5 – Agoura Hills, Calif. @ Canyon Club
Nov. 6 – Beverly Hills, Calif. @ Saban Theater
Nov. 7 – Las Vegas, Nev. @ Vamp’d
Nov. 8 – San Diego, Calif. @ House of Blues