You know that feeling you get when you experience something so incredible that you just can’t find the right words to describe it? When something leaves you absolutely speechless? That’s how I felt after seeing the Winery Dogs live at Amos’ Southend. It’s taken me almost two full days to be able to put what I saw, heard and felt that night into words. I get a rush of excitement just thinking about it.
The show started off with a bang as one of Charlotte’s most celebrated rock bands, Blanco Diablo, kicked things off. This trio has toured the world filling the ears of audiences everywhere with their upbeat, melodic, riff heavy brand of rock ‘n’ roll. These guys take the simplicty of AC/DC, the heaviness of Ozzy Osbourne with the raunchy blues attack of ZZ Top and roll it all into one to make it their own. With the steady pounding of the drums by Jefferson Nunnery and thumping of the bass by Patrick Jason to keep the rhythm held down, lead vocalist/guitarist Jamie Ray filled the speakers with his catchy riffs and shred style solos. With melodies that were easy to sing along to and the ability to get every head in the crowd banging, they got the packed house nice and warmed up for the headliners to take over.
The Winery Dogs are made up of three of the most talented musicians to play rock and metal over the last thirty years: vocalist/guitarist Richie Kotzen, bassist Billy Sheehan and drummer Mike Portnoy. Right off the bat you could tell this was going to be an amazing show as they started with one of their most energetic and upbeat tunes, “Elevate.” One thing that sets these guys apart from any other band I’ve ever heard or seen is their ability to play songs that feature so many intricate rhythms and patterns while keeping the melodies and lyrics so catchy that you can’t help but sing along. Picture a mixing bowl in front of you, now throw in the styles of metal, rock, progressive, blues and soul and you have the one-of-a-kind sound that is the Winery Dogs.
As they played through song after song off their debut album, they also weaved in and out of lengthy jam sessions that showcased the insane skills these musicians possess. Kotzen would take center stage and just start wailing away on his guitar, producing some of the most mesmerizing solos I’ve ever heard. And he doesn’t even use a guitar pick. This man finger picked every single note, even while he was shredding away. Portnoy was constantly keeping the crowd pleased with his crazy stick spins and wild drum fills, throwing sticks out into the first few rows in between songs. About halfway through the set, Sheehan was left alone on stage and performed a bass solo that had every jaw in the building dropped. He can rock a bass solo better than most guitar solos I’ve heard. They threw in a couple of covers including a bit of “Hey Joe” by Jimi Hendrix and “Shy Boy” by Billy Sheehan. The latter was the song that ended the night and since Sheehan was in Roth’s band when the song was written, he took over on lead vocals while Kotzen and Portnoy kept the crowd hypnotized with their incredible playing.
Two amazingly talented bands at one of the best venues to see live music in Charlotte makes for a night you’ll remember until the day you take your last breath. I heard multiple people say that was the best show they’ve ever seen as I headed out the door and I couldn’t agree more. If you missed out I really do feel bad for you. They may be too big to play a small venue like that the next time they come around, I’ll still be there though and I’m already excited to see these guys again.