Richie Kotzen Live At Wentz Concert Hall, Naperville


Richie Kotzen came through Illinois for not 1, not 2, but 3 shows earlier this month. The tour was dubbed Salting Earth, but Salting Illinois is more like it. Richie was kicking off part 2 of his tour which got started in good ‘ol Moline, (almost Iowa “Are we in Heaven”) IL. Then Richie hit Reggie’s Rock Club in South Chicago and for extra rock n’ roll measure Kotzen performed for the Wentz Concert Hall in Naperville, IL, which was a make up show that was canceled last year. 3 nights of Richie made fans really happy in the Chicago-land area.

Kotzen is no stranger to rock n’ roll, with a little over 20 solo albums spanning a 28 year career; 5 years with Mr. Big; 2 years with Poison and now with The Winery Dogs (with Billy Sheehan & Mike Portnoy); Richie is definitely in a class of his own. His vocal style has a smooth raspy edge to it, similar to that of David Coverdale. Richie has a 3 finger fingerpickin’ guitar technique, with a lightning-fast guitar style. He slides his fingers up and down that guitar neck so effortlessly. Richie is a force to be reckoned with.

The very intimate Wentz Concert Hall in Naperville, IL is a slightly different type of venue that may not see a ton of Rock n’ Roll but I’m sure has seen plenty of Orchestras, Plays etc. being a performing arts center, which gave a very clean and crisp acoustical sound. The venue has an oversized stage, and the Kotzen 3 piece band was set front and center so the crowd could be up close and personal with Richie. There was no lighting flare with this show, no crazy visual displays, but what this show did have was great, performed to perfection rock n’ roll. When the 3-piece ensemble hit the stage it was with only one purpose – To deliver pure Rock and Roll. Richie along with Dylan Wilson (bass), and Mike Bennett (drums) slowly took their spots to a slightly somber crowd. Which heated up shortly after the first chord rang out.

 

Richie kicked everything off with a very appropriate song “You’re Entertainer” off the 2009 album Peace Sign then launched right into “Bad Situation” off 2011 album 24 Hours. The evening bounced around through all of the essential Richie Kotzen songs old and new. At one point Richie broke set to fulfill a special request, which he mentioned he doesn’t normally do, but he launched into a very smooth version of “Sara Smile” by Hall & Oates which the crowd just ate up.

Richie lit up the evening with a great selection of music spanning through his lustrous 28-year career. It was a great show in a great little Naperville, IL venue. The fans were very appreciative that Richie came back too. It might’ve even been why he gave a special extended encore, which included, “War Paint” with a little classic “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” a old Elvin Bishop cover, and so did the crowd.

Richie is on tour now until May 23rd in the states then off overseas until July 27th. Check out Richie Kotzen’s web site at: http://richiekotzen.com/tour-dates/ for more details. It was a great show, by a very impressive guitar virtuoso. Catch him while you can.

Set List:

  1. Your Entertainer
  2. Bad Situation
  3. Love Is Blind
  4. High
  5. Go Faster
  6. Fooled Again
  7. Socialite
  8. The Road
  9. Meds
  10. Fear
  11. Sara Smile (Hall & Oates cover)
  12. End of Earth
  13. Help Me

Encore:

  1. War Paint
  2. Fooled Around and Fell in Love (Elvin Bishop cover)

WORDS AND PHOTOS BY RICK TRIANA

Gus G. – I Am The Fire

Gus-G-I-Am-the-Fire

 

The early-90’s saw a sea change in the world of rock and metal, and a slew of great albums adorned the mainstream. These weren’t frilly-shirted or leather-trousered types, these were check-shirted and ripped jeans types, bringing some incredible music. Alice In Chains, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden shaped the soundscape. Yes, it meant “metal” had to go and lick its wounds, but it never went away. Indeed, Pantera, White Zombie and Metallica will tell you, it certainly didn’t stop good metal bands being successful or releasing great albums (OK, Metallica’s last great album was pre-grunge, but you get my point, and besides Garage Inc was bloody good).

But while metal burrowed underground and into mainland Europe, “Rock” was mortally wounded. Manowar’s black arrow of death sent straight to the heart of all those who played false metal was actually fired by bands that didn’t play metal at all (though Dirt, for one, is one heavy motherfucker). But, do you know what? That wasn’t a bad thing at all, as it meant the end of hundreds of unimaginative, middle of the road plod rock bands.

As well played as it is, Gus G.’s I Am The Fire (Century Media) is the exact sort of album that it was great that grunge killed. A guitar “virtuoso” proving that he can shred, widdle, and solo with the best of them, but without the distinctiveness or feel of the great (I’d take a Slash or Adrian Smith or Ritchie Blackmore solo over one of Gus’s any day, maybe technically not as proficient but guys who make their leads sing) but has no imagination beyond stock chords for “riffs” and obvious, underwhelming vocal lines when songwriting. It’s like Gus is saying “this album isn’t about how great I am on guitar, it’s about songs”. Yes Gus. Boring ones’

Joined by a cast of proficient if unexciting B-list vocalists, the two best tracks on here are the two instrumentals; ‘Vengeance’ featuring Dave Ellefson, a spiky track that could have been the music under a track off Rust In Peace and ‘Terrified’ featuring Billy Sheehan, a riffier, thrashier number.

 

4 / 10

Gus G. on Facebook

STEVE TOVEY