Richie Kotzen is an interesting musician to say the least. He first came to attention as one of that generation of instrumental guitar players signed by Mike Varney to the Shrapnel label in the 1980s alongside Yngwie Malmsteen, Tony MacAlpine and Marty Friedman.
Richie Kotzen: Islington Assembly Hall, London
Words: Chris Dale
In 1991 he replaced CC DeVille in Poison and recorded and co-wrote the ‘Native Tongue’ album. In 1999 he replaced Paul Gilbert in Mr Big and more recently he formed the Winery Dogs with Billy Sheehan and Mike Portnoy, of which is is also the lead vocalist.
In between that he has released no less than twenty solo albums and its these that he’s here to showcase tonight.
Opening to a sold out crowd, Richie delights us with virtuoso rock fusion guitaring and his trademark husky vocals rising to a piercing scream. He’s on form tonight, I think to myself.
His band are shit hot too. Bassist Dylan Williams is a monster player while drummer Mike Bennet provides both groove and flash from behind the kit. All three are pretty impressive and bounce off each other with apparent ease.
Then the oddest thing happens. Three songs in Richie tells us that he’s lost his voice and can barely speak, let alone sing. He says he’s struggling pretty hard but he’ll give it a go.
Then he sits down at a Rhodes organ (which we soon find he’s also a virtuoso on) and blasts out a soulful falsetto for five minutes. I’m confused. Didn’t he just say he’d lost his voice?
He carries on like this through a string of numbers such as ‘My Rock’, ‘This Is Life’ and one of my favourites, ‘Socialite’, all from his solo repertoire. He doesn’t play the tempting game of popping a Mr Big or Winery Dogs song in there for easy applause.
These songs are belted out full blast in between more apologies from the main man about his voice. Really Richie, you’re doing way better than most singers on their best form.
To give Richie a break, bassist Dylan sings ‘High’ from the ‘Change’ album. Well whaddayouknow, he’s a great singer too!
Then Julia Herzog from openers the Konincks gets up to sing ‘Remember’ from the ‘Get Up’ album. Yep, she’s great too. This is the best ‘bad night’ I’ve ever seen.
There’s just time for a couple more songs from the band and blazing vocals alternated with apologies from Richie and they’re off. That was a full ninety minute show!
A great night, great band, great singing… and that’s apparently on a bad night. Can’t wait to see a good night then, Richie!
I would have given it eight or nine pints but Richie told us it wasn’t as good as I thought it was. Drummer, Mike Bennet, also lost them a point for playing a cahon solo. In case you don’t know a cahon is an instrument like a wooden box that you hit with your hands. I’ve never been a fan of them. They sound just like you’re hitting a wooden box with your hands and I don’t think people should be asked to pay money for that kind of thing.