Fresh off their appearance at Sonisphere this past weekend, hard rock supergroup The Winery Dogs is back in the capital, their second sojourn here in 12 months. Having comfortably sold out the O2 Academy Islington, it comes to no attendee's surprise that the miniscule Underworld's tickets for the show tonight sell out in advance incredibly rapidly.
Support comes from London's own Voodoo Six, a heavy metal outfit formulated in 2003 by current guitarist of Judas Priest Richie Faulkner (who obviously is no longer a member) and bassist Tony Newton. With four full-length albums in their repertoire, their efforts have seen them performing at Download and Sonisphere festivals in addition to supporting Iron Maiden on the road. They have also accrued a good fanbase for a young band, many of whom are in the audience tonight, proudly sporting the quintet's t-shirts. Their heavy metal is accentuated by '90s hard rock groove, with precise attention to a catchy rhythm section.
The crammed crowd are very receptive to Voodoo Six, who effortlessly secure a robust ovation at the conclusion of each song. Their stage presence is typical of a rock band on a stage as small as the Underworld, with little room to manoeuvre failing to reduce their apparent enthusiasm for the live environment. Heads bob to the infectious rhythms as Voodoo Six continue to spin out 40 minutes of rock 'n' roll – not particularly adventurous music but definitely the kind of rock that deserves its time and place and certainly an appropriate opener for The Winery Dogs.
Formed in 2013, The Winery Dogs are assembled from hard rock characters Billy Sheehan (David Lee Roth, Mr. Big, Talas) handling bass, Richie Kotzen (Poison, Mr. Big) pulling double duty with guitar and vocals and progressive metal revolutionary Mike Portnoy on drums, best known for his much-publicized role in Dream Theater. Opening with 'Elevate' from their eponymous full-length album, The Winery Dogs display traditional hard rock encapsulated in a modernised glisten with technical prowess and an accessibly light sing-along chorus with their opener that cycles through a variety of different tones and techniques that beautifully illustrate the creativity confined within these accomplished musicians, aided by clear sound.
With only one album to their name, The Winery Dogs have the chance to play every song in their inventory. It is easy to understand why the particularly groove-laden 'We Are One', the soft rocker 'Damaged' the honest 'I'm No Angel' and the melancholy 'The Dying' are audience highlights. The set is also peppered with a handful of covers including Kotzen performing 'High' from his solo work, the only man on stage, successfully inviting the audience to sing along. A bass solo from Sheehan sees fretboard gymnastics take place as he wows the audience, reminding them that the bass is not the insignificant instrument that plenty of bands treat it as.
The band members each get a chance to indulge in stage banter, each musician receiving equally solid reactions from the fans. The enthusiasm of the trio is evident, particularly with Mike Portnoy who is as animated as ever, even taking a walk around the stage and using various objects as substitutes for his kit. Closing with the very memorable and colourful 'Desire', the crowd response is voracious and The Winery Dogs' hurried exit hints at an encore. The demanding audience confirms there is still more to come as the headliners take the stage again. The encore begins with a cover of Gary Wright's '70s hit 'Love is Alive', well adapted and handled with confidence by The Winery Dogs. This is followed by their own 'Regret' with Kotzen sitting down on his keyboard for the first and only time tonight, an emotive number that slows down the pace and introduces a pop blend to the music's consciousness. The closer is a cover of Talas' 'Shyboy' (also covered by David Lee Roth on his debut solo effort 'Eat 'em and Smile'). With a different kind of vintage energy to that owned by The Winery Dogs, it makes a nice change of pace and is a commendable way to close the set. The audience definitely thinks so, the heat of the venue unable to compromise their appreciation as The Winery Dogs thank them and vacate the stage.
Those who attended this intimate show were incredibly lucky. It is incredibly likely that seeing any of these musicians in this venue with any outfit they have will not occur again. This intimate experience imbued the concert with more grit and a proximity to the band that really encouraged sinking teeth into the music's riffs.