Up close with The Winery Dogs, Northern Lights Theater

A below the radar supergroup has been brewing for quite some time now. Their 2013 self-titled release¬†The Winery Dogs¬†put The Winery Dogs on the map and exposed their true supergroup colors. Formed by the alliance of super-bassist Billy Sheehan, Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater, and Richie Kotzen – best known from Poison in the early 90’s – brought their fused talent to the Northern Lights Theater for one of the best intimate experiences in the city.

In recent years the term “supergroup” has lost its power. These alliances come and go, most gaining more press as they break up than when they were together. The Winery Dogs are changing that by giving “supergroup” the punch it once had. They seem like they’ve left their egos at the door, but I’m no pro when it comes to band relationships.

Sheehan’s speedy dancing bass licks combined with Portnoy’s pounding insanity contrasts well with Kotzen’s blistering guitar solos. Until now I’ve never heard so many notes come off a Tele. With the skill he has it amazes me that he’s only appeared in smaller acts.

The Winery Dogs’ simple yet melodic arrangement combinations attract more than the ear when they come together. Sheehan’s expressions mixed with Kotzen’s class rock moves keep us busy. And let’s not forget the Portnoy’s constant taunting of the crowd, singling out the more enthusiastic fans.

I thought we only heard drum solos from Godsmack, Van Halen, and Tool, but it seems as though Portnoy’s contribution to The Winery Dogs includes a narrowed down view at what he does best.

While the songs appear very similar mostly due to Sheehan’s easily identifiable bass lines, the slow, gritty breakdowns left me wanting more. If only more than a handful in the crowd shared my enthusiasm.

Sheehan upped the show with a bass solo the crowd had been waiting for since song one. The solo – elite. Only a handful of bassists could rival – not even seasoned guitarists could tacked a transcribed version.

“Milwaukee, give it up for Mr. Billy Sheehan on bass!”

Vocalist Richie Kotzen also got his shining moment showing off some of his own work.

The Winery Dogs coin a vintage and very timeless style of contemporary rock with a very talented twist. They fill a wide gap of genre missing in today’s music, and people who are oblivious are sorrily missing out.

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