Winery Dogs at the Canyon Club

Went to see The Winery Dogs at the Canyon Club last night.

If you don’t know them, that’s no surprise…they are a three-man modern all-star rock band composed of Mike Portnoy (Dream Theatre et al), Richie Kotzen (Poison, Mr. Big) and Billy Sheehan (Steve Vai, Mr. Big, et al). Now there is absolutely no question these guys can play and play really well and they are fun to watch, but the old-school questions for me were “Do they have anything to say?” and “What makes them significant?” Alas, I was somewhat disappointed on both fronts.

While demonstrating mastery over an elevated double-kick setup, Portnoy was literally all over it time and again, flipping and twirling (and dropping) his sticks, and pounding out some complicated rhythms all evening. Kotzen plays a fingerstyle guitar, somewhat akin to Robbie Kreiger’s rock-cum-classical way of picking, which gives his playing a distinctive sound. His technique was impressive and his tenor voice is good but a little whiny for my taste.

I came to see Billy Sheehan. This giant of rock bass guitar showed off more tricks in one night than I had ever seen by a player before, but his performance became too much of “Look ma, look what I can do, see how many notes I can stuff in two minutes” and not enough groove. I only had my toes tapping on maybe two or three songs all night.

And that brings me to the disappointing part…their lyrics are wholly insipid, simple and vapid with nothing of profundity beyond your standard rock themes, and I found much of their songwriting to be too repetitive to be distinctive and special. Give me a Neil Young, Pete Townshend or a Jethro Tull over these guys any time.

And of course the crowd were their usual stupid self. At one point there were over a dozen people, just in my area, with their cell phones up and taking photos and video of the band, blocking everyone else’s view. Then there was the wannabe who didn’t shut up all night, the guy pounding on the table like he was Ginger Baker, and the girl stacking glasses on the table during the songs…sheesh, people, get in the moment at least…

The Canyon Club is a positive venue with good sound, over-priced food and drink and a pleasant staff. The chairs at the tables were dense like sardines, however, and those sitting next to extra-large people had their space severely hampered…

All in all, a grade of C+ at best.

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