Rock City, Nottingham ~ Tonight, as I head down the A50, I wonder what kind of a night I’m in for. Nottingham has had what commonly known around these parts as a ‘pretty shitty week’ with the events of last Monday still as raw and likely to be so for a good while yet. Maybe the good and kind people of the Lace City need a bit of a release even if it’s only for a few hours - only time will tell…
Now I have a bit of a love affair with The Rescue Rooms in Nottingham because of the way that ‘togs get looked after, (showing bias there I am) but tonight I get to head next door, to its big sister, …Rock City, and the talents of what is generally considered to be a ‘supergroup’.
Our venue is well on its way to being full from the moment the doors being opened, so it’s a good sign that Nottingham is in the mood to be entertained - which showed when our Support, Jared James Nichols strolled on stage and hit a couple of power chords to get our attention.
We are now awake, and Nashville based Nichols doesn’t mess about as this is loud and fast paced. He has half an hour to make an impression and some new friends, and he isn’t wasting time. He opens with the current single ‘Easy Come, Easy Go’ and follows it up with ‘Down the Drain’.
‘Threw Me to the Wolves’ went down particularly well and he could easily have finished there such was the impact he’d made, but no, there’s a couple more songs before he finishes with a blistering cover of War Pigs inviting Nottingham to join in. By now Nottingham is very much in the mood and does so accordingly, so well in fact, that you could easily be forgiven for thinking this was the Headline not the Support. This was a job well done and this has started things off rather nicely.
Nichols will set out on a UK tour of his own in October, (supported by DeWolff) starting off ‘next door’ in The Rescue Rooms and the smart money says that many of tonight’s crowd will show up in numbers such was the reaction he got tonight.
Easy Come, Easy Go
Down The Drain
Threw Me To The Wolves
War Pigs / Mississippi Queen
…but now, it’s time to let the Dogs out…
Winery Dogs - I tried to avoid using the word ‘supergroup’ but let’s be fair, when you have the track record that these boys have, it’s hard to define them any other way. Billy Sheehan (Steve Vai, Mr. Big and David Lee Roth), Richie Kotzen (Mr. Big and Poison) and the man, the actual man, that is Mike Portnoy (Dream Theatre - enough said !) get together just over a decade ago, make three albums, the last only just having been released mind, and command respect from day one.
Our three walk on stage to rapturous applause, acknowledge the love and affection that is pouring out and then take their places for what will be a magical hour and a half.
We start with a couple of tunes from said new album, ‘Gaslight’ which segways straight into ‘Xanadu’ and the mood is set for the night. The quality of musicianship is exceptional, the kind of which you only get when everyone knows their part and when to play it.
‘Captain Love’, ‘Hotstreak’, ‘Desire’, it all comes at you with such power, you can’t help but soak it up and let it wash right through you. ‘Time Machine’ had some nifty drum riffs running through the middle of it, from Portnoy, for which he received huge and well-deserved applause. Kotzen introduces another new song from the new album, ‘Stars’, before it’s time to slow things down just for a moment, and we’re treated to ‘Damaged’ from the first album. I knew this would be magical, and it was, until it just got better…
Time… for the drum solo…..
I’ve been waiting for this - for a very long time, since I was a kid - and I wasn’t to be disappointed. Portnoy was on top form and made the most of every piece of skin and metal laid before him, teasing, drawing us in with paradiddle after paradiddle, lick after lick, with sticks spinning in between just for the love of it, because he could - and because we wanted him to, more, more, more…
….and all as the intro for ‘The Other Side’ which was also the intro for the bass solo - all 6 minutes and 10 seconds of it ! ! Sheehan can be an imposing figure at the best of times, and he made good use of every part of the stage, striding around as if he owned it, but when stood centre stage, on his own, Kotzen and Portnoy having exited stage left for the duration, Sheehan delivered.
‘I’m No Angel’ and ‘Oblivion’ finish us off before the three play the encore game to perfection, wave, leave, dim lights (but not too much), lift lights, return, acknowledge the love, fake appeal for more (as if anyone would’ve dared to say no) and then deliver the goods, softly at first as ‘Regret’, saw Kotzen sit at piano - I guessed it had to be used at some point in the night and wasn’t just there for ornamental purposes - and a nice, slow melodic start to the encore begins - a bit unusual perhaps but you wouldn’t have thought so with the response, especially when Kotzen reverted back to one of the many guitars he used throughout the night and delivered a dynamic solo of his own before diving straight into ‘Elevate’ for a barnstorming finish.
….Oh, and one last thing… a massive shout out to the poor Roady whose job was to lie down behind Portnoy throughout the entire show to control the swing mike to stop it looping right around and smacking him in the face ! Even through Sheehan’s solo when there was absolutely no need for him to be there, Portnoy having left with Kotzen, he stayed resolutely in place waiting to play his part once again when said drummer / hero of mine returned - what a trooper - an absolute trooper.
The Other Side
The Red Wine
I’m No Angel
Written for Rock at Night Magazine