The Winery Dogs and Jared James Nichols – Thrilling Power Trios

When tonight’s entertainment is two power trios, both with guitarists known for their finger-picking styles, you may think there would not be too much variety on offer, far from it. This is where the comparison ends, apart from both The Winery Dogs and Jared James Nichols providing pleasure and thrills in equal measure.

Winery Dogs – Jared James Nichols

KK’s Steel Mill, Wolverhampton – 16 June 2023

Words: Liz Medhurst

Photography: John Inglis

Jared James Nichols

Jared James Nichols - KK's Steel Mill - 16 June 2023.
Jared James Nichols – KK’s Steel Mill – 16 June 2023. Photo: John Inglis/MetalTalk

First up is blues powerhouse Jared James Nichols, making a welcome return to the UK. Apart from a single gig in February to launch his latest, self-titled album, it’s the first time we’ve seen him here in over three years, so there was a lot of catching up to do. Armed with the hurricane survivor Dorothy, his ‘52 golden Les Paul, and a bank of Blackstar amps, he launched into current single Easy Come, Easy Go with a blast of energy that could power the National Grid.

There’s nothing quite like the live experience of Nichols. At six foot five with a resplendent mane of curls, his physical presence is truly engaging, but the sheer command and beauty of his playing keep you enthralled.

Jared James Nichols - KK's Steel Mill - 16 June 2023.
Jared James Nichols – KK’s Steel Mill – 16 June 2023. Photo: John Inglis/MetalTalk

With a solid and fluid rhythm section keeping things together at the low end, an absolute feast of strong licks and otherworldly tones was presented, with a knack for timing and getting right under your skin in the best possible way.

We were treated to five tracks from the current album, including the brooding Shadow Dancer and exuberant Hard Wired. Threw Me To The Wolves, the 2020 single, also appeared, which included a heartfelt tribute to Tom Leighton of Wolf Jaw, who so sadly passed away in 2021.

Jared James Nichols - KK's Steel Mill - 16 June 2023.
Jared James Nichols – KK’s Steel Mill – 16 June 2023. Photo: John Inglis/MetalTalk

Appropriately for a gig on the Black Country, the set ended with a smoking cover of War Pigs, which had the entire crowd chanting. If you thought it was hot outside today, it was nothing compared to the fiery atmosphere created with this set. Magnificent.

The Winery Dogs

The Winery Dogs - KK's Steel Mill - 16 June 2023
The Winery Dogs – KK’s Steel Mill – 16 June 2023. Photo: John Inglis/MetalTalk

From the leonine to the canine, The Winery Dogs were let off the leash to explode onto the stage with extravagant doses of funked-up heaviness. Whereas the previous set was all about Jared, this Prog Metal supergroup is made up of three equally huge personalities whose chemistry is as sweet as a dry martini in the dog days of summer.

The Winery Dogs - KK's Steel Mill - 16 June 2023
The Winery Dogs – KK’s Steel Mill – 16 June 2023. Photo: John Inglis/MetalTalk

Currently on the European leg of the world tour to go alongside their third album, the logically titled III, it’s a treat to see Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater), Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big), and Ritchie Kotzen (Poison) having a blast, delivering a multi-layered colourful set.

The Winery Dogs - KK's Steel Mill - 16 June 2023
The Winery Dogs – KK’s Steel Mill – 16 June 2023. Photo: John Inglis/MetalTalk

We are three albums in now, so there’s plenty of choice for the set, which was well crafted. Highlights were a foreboding Time Machine, the jazzy Stars, and an emotional Damaged.

The Winery Dogs - KK's Steel Mill - 16 June 2023
The Winery Dogs – KK’s Steel Mill – 16 June 2023. Photo: John Inglis/MetalTalk

The thing with The Winery Dogs, though, is that no matter how heavy they wander or how far down the road of jazzy complexity they go, proceedings are always pulled back with a chorus you can sing along to or an immense groove that gets you dancing, or at least shuffling from side to side.

The Winery Dogs - KK's Steel Mill - 16 June 2023
The Winery Dogs – KK’s Steel Mill – 16 June 2023. Photo: John Inglis/MetalTalk

Ritchie Kotzen is the most understated of the three when it comes to on-stage performance but delivers magic with his resonant guitar tones and wonderful emotive vocals.

Although every track showcases the virtuosity of the trio, space was left for Billy Sheehan to perform an extended bass solo, stretched out over many minutes, which does seem to divide the crowd. On the one hand, you have those who are in awe at the truly innovative, spectacular sounds and rhythms that he coaxes from those four strings, leaving jaws dropping. On the other, you have those who think that it is an indulgence too far, which breaks up the pace of the set, and instead, use the time for a loo break and bar visit. A win-win situation all round then.

The Winery Dogs - KK's Steel Mill - 16 June 2023
The Winery Dogs – KK’s Steel Mill – 16 June 2023. Photo: John Inglis/MetalTalk

After crowd-pleaser and stunner Oblivion rounded off the main set, the two-song encore saw a soulful rendition of Regret with Kotzen on the keyboards and then a soaring Elevate to send us out into the night happy, sweaty and re-charged.

Jared James Nichols - KK's Steel Mill - 16 June 2023.
Jared James Nichols – KK’s Steel Mill – 16 June 2023. Photo: John Inglis/MetalTalk
Jared James Nichols - KK's Steel Mill - 16 June 2023.
Jared James Nichols – KK’s Steel Mill – 16 June 2023. Photo: John Inglis/MetalTalk
Jared James Nichols - KK's Steel Mill - 16 June 2023.
Jared James Nichols – KK’s Steel Mill – 16 June 2023. Photo: John Inglis/MetalTalk

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