Live Review: The Winery Dogs + Jared James Nichols at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London – 18 June 2023

Review and photos by Peter Coates –

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The Winery Dogs + Jared James Nichols at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London – 18 June 2023

Jared James Nichols is larger than life, and when wielding a Gibson guitar, can be frankly terrifying, so the energy in the Pit when he and the band take to the stage is palpable.  They dive into Easy Come Easy Go, which is just a taster for the epic Down The Drain which follows.  Dennis Holm on the drums is a powerhouse, and current bassist, Diego Edsel (I think) is a stage-roaming wildman with a low-slung Fender!  The set powers on to Hardwired which I love, before Throw Me To The Wolves, which is just a classic blues rock trio number that shows the band off at their best.

The volume dropped and Jared throws in the classic lick from Miss You as a precursor to the extended solo piece, while bass and drums continue pounding away providing a rock solid backing.

Feedback opens up before the drums slam in and the helter skelter riffing and tempo of Bad Roots – my favourite track from the last album, with an intense mid section on drums before the solo.  This is a monster of a track and ends way too soon for my liking.

Nails – a classic slow burner of a blues track, with some solid backing vocals from the band, and this builds into a huge solo, with a distorted climax, before a pause and then into another chorus that builds and then fades into the close.  The abridged set closes with a medley of War Pigs and a snippet of Mississippi Queen which gets the crowd involved with a huge singalong.  Dennis absolutely kills it in all the fills.  JJN stays relatively faithful to the riffs and lead breaks and keeps it going through the middle segment to the wailing solo which then comes to a halt…….with a brief guitar solo, and quick drum break before it ends.

Jared has just announced a run of tour dates in the UK and Europe through October, so don’t miss him!

The Winery Dogs

This is a band that should never really gel, being three virtuosos of their craft, who would normally take centre stage in any band.  However, over the past 10 years they have appeared to simply just love playing together, writing a whole bunch of progressive blues rock tracks that allow them to show off their individual skills, without detracting from the sheer quality of the band as a whole.  Billy Sheehan (Talas, David Lee Roth, Mr Big) on Bass, Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater) on Drums and Richie Kotzen (Poison, Mr Big) on Guitar are all extraordinary musicians who make what they do look way too easy!

The set opened with Gaslight and Xanadu before a riotous version of Captain Love, which sounded and felt way better live than on the record.

Hot Streak was up next, and Portnoy must be the chilliest rock drummer around, he plays without frills or fuss, and finds time for so much interaction and interplay with the band and the audience, while throwing off the most ridiculous fills and accents!  Desire included a funked up mid section and some stunning guitar work over a progressive jazz rock background, before Breakthrough from the new album, which is a little less frenetic at the start and powers up into something fairly standard in a radio-friendly way.

Ritchie Kotzen is an impeccable guitarist,  although generally avoids the pure widdly widdly approach, preferring to provide the riffs and patterns rather than pure lead breaks, although his voice is a bit strained tonight which while not his strongest point, does have an impact on the overall sound.  Time Machine is a bit darker with a powerful groove to it, with some great three part harmonies in the chorus.  The band goes into orbit with the technical solo segment that takes this to the close.  Another new one in Stars, with an extended stripped back solo from Kotzen that builds over the rhythm section that sees Sheehan and Portnoy get steadily more outrageous as the solo builds and builds to the climax.  These guys are just insanely talented and appear to click so well when playing together.

Back to the first album and Damaged, which is about the nearest thing to a ballad, and includes a short, concise drum solo…..ridiculous …..Nuff said.

Bass and guitar back in for The Other Side which includes a really stripped back solo section with some intricate reggae beats, and then erupts into a blistering solo from Kotzen, which flicks quickly into the Billy Sheehan bass solo!  6 minutes of this is unnecessary really given what he does in the songs themselves, but allows him to totally show off.  Somewhat overlong and overblown, but the musical nerds in the audience loved it.

Then we got Red Wine and I’m No Angel which gave us a bit of a respite from the musical onslaught, although each of them had their outrageous moments, before the set closed with Oblivion.  This was just extraordinary to witness from all three of the band.  There are not enough superlatives to cover this one, and there are many moments when this reviewer is open mouthed at the sheer audacity of the playing, and how easy they make it seem.  Granted that Kotzen’s voice was suffering, but this is just one of the components of the Winery Dogs sound, and not the main one.

Portnoy comes back out to tinker on the piano before Kotzen takes over for the intro to Regret, and puts in a huge vocal effort for this ballad.  He shows himself quite capable on the piano before slinging the guitar back on for another astonishing solo.  Finally, Elevate lifts the roof off the old Empire – technical, fast, with intricate drum and bass patterns all intertwined with the lead guitar work.  Some superb individual breaks and riffs followed, and the crowd built up the energy in support all the way to the end.  Phew!

The Winery Dogs

Jared James Nichols