The Winery Dogs Live in Las Vegas!

The Winery Dogs
Vamp’d Rock Bar And Grille
Las Vegas, Nevada
November 7, 2015

By Roy Rahl

Oblivion | Captain Love | We Are One | Hot Streak | Bass Solo | How Long | Time Machine | Empire | Fire (acoustic version) | Think It Over | The Other Side | Not Hopeless | Ghost Town | I'm No Angel | Regret |Desire

Mike Portnoy, Billy Sheehan, and Richie Kotzen live onstage. Let that soak in a bit. It doesn’t take much imagination to foresee a great concert coming your way. Well, The Winery Dogs showed up in Vegas in early November and proceeded to tear the place to shreds. What a great show! These guys are consummate professionals.

The lads performed at a woefully underpowered venue far west of The Strip. As a local I am always appreciative of groups who decide to extend out away from the tourist-dominated Strip so they can play for a crowd of dedicated locals. Unfortunately, the venue chosen is simply a bar that has an elemental stage, a few tables, and an empty concrete floor for standing ... and standing ... and standing ... nearly five hours of standing on a barroom concrete slab in order to get a compressed space inside the overcrowded room.  Additionally, the band’s powerful backing vocals were mixed so low they were very difficult to hear. That’s a real problem considering the role those vocals play in their music. Both the band and the fans deserved much better accommodations.

With that said, The Winery Dogs came onstage and played their asses off. It is easy to see that these guys really enjoy what they’re doing and want to share that experience with their fans. Their energy level was extremely high and the performance was amazing. The Winery Dogs is a perfect combination of amazing talent and fan-oriented music perfectly calibrated for live performance.

The collective talent in this band is staggering. All three musicians are so strong they run the very real risk of using the stage purely to show off that talent and playing right over the heads of their fans. That didn’t happen. These guys write music for their fans, not self-adulation, and it comes through in spades (Hot Streak pun intended) on stage.

The Winery Dogs played extensively from their two albums, The Winery Dogs and Hot Streak. As mentioned before, aside from being kickass music on its own, their music is perfectly designed for live performances. Fans are presented with the wonderful dilemma of who to watch and which part to focus upon at any given moment. Although there are no special effects or pyrotechnics, there is simply too much happening on stage and too much talent coming at you all the time. Does the concert-goer check out the solid and brilliant drum and percussion expertise of Mike Portnoy, or the what-the-hell-is-he-doing-and-how-is-that-even-possible bass line expertise of Billy Sheehan, or watch as Richie Kotzen plays highly intricate guitar melodies without a pick while simultaneously singing equally strong vocal parts? There’s just too much information to soak in; the audience is overwhelmed in a brilliant way.

The concert was opened with Kicking Harold, a three-piece band who combined several original pieces and cover tunes to get things going. It’s a very good band that could easily hold an audience in a standalone concert. They managed to take an audience that was getting uneasy while standing around and turned it into an appreciative crowd. I was impressed, as were many of the folks standing near me. They were an excellent choice of The Winery Dogs as an opening band and I’m confident this will not be the last time I will hear about Kicking Harold.

When The Winery Dogs came on stage they opened with “Oblivion”. This immediately set the tone for the rest of the show. This is a hard-hitting barnburner of a song that instantly established that this was not going to be an easy going, laid back performance. The audience quickly realized they were in for treat. The band then followed up with tunes such as “Hot Streak”, “Empire”, and my personal favorite, “Think It over”. The crowd never had a chance. With solo efforts from all three band members, it just got crazier after that! These guys are amazing. Man, it was fun!

The Winery Dogs have finished the United States portion of their tour and will soon be taking their talents to Europe. Frankly, America’s loss is Europe’s gain. I apologize to the American fans who frequent this site; I simply could not report on a concert that had not occurred yet (although one of my colleagues eloquently did that service for you a few weeks back). But to those of you in Europe, get off your butts and book tickets for this show right now. You will not be disappointed. This is an amazing concert.