(Photo Credits: LINDZRS MEDIA PHOTOGRAPHY)
A date with Richie Kotzen on a Tuesday night at one of my favourite live music venues? Oh go on then! Many people obviously felt the same and as I walked up to the venue, the queue was already out of the door, the mix of ages showing the scope of the popularity of the American singer, songwriter and guitarist.
The line of people waiting was buzzing – talk of Winery Dogs, Mr Big, the last time Richie was in town, what would be on the setlist? and the new album were all topics that buzzed around the fans. There was a definite air of excitement.
The orderly queue was quickly filtered into the room ably by the chatty, friendly staff at the Robin and the crowd jostled for position in front of the stage which was tooled up and ready for the evening.
No support band tonight, just 90 minutes of Mr Kotzen and his band, 20 plus solo albums of songs meant that even though this was the ‘Salting Earth Tour’, it was a guarantee that at least a couple of oldies but goodies would be on the setlist.
For those who are not aware, Richie Kotzen has been around a while (that is an understatement) the man has been in an impressive assortment of high profile bands, Mr Big, Poison and currently guitarist and lead singer with The Winery Dogs but it is his solo career that hits the spot for me. Its the blend of soul, jazz, blues, rock, and pop that infuse his solo material that makes him so interesting.
The whoops and hollers began as Richie Kotzen, Mike Bennett and Dylan Wilson take to the stage. Cameras and phones held ready in expectation of the first number. Kotzen is not one for the spoken word, launching straight into the music allowing the power of his guitar to do the talking.
As this is only the 3rd night of the European tour, I’m not going into too much detail of the set list as I’m not going to ruin the expectation that I felt at the beginning of the night for those who are set to see him later in the tour, but I will mention some.
‘Your Entertainer’ smacks you in the face with the amount of swagger in the riffs, ‘Bad Situation’, ‘Love Is Blind’, bluesy and groove ridden, and ‘Fooled Again’ which is a delicious dip into hard edged rock while ‘Socialite’ feels like a band favourite as each member chips in to give a packed out master class in drum, bass and guitar.
The thudding bassline with some staggering swagger comes through consistently from Dylan Wilson who seems so comfortable playing alongside Richie and Mike Bennett on drums, one-minute spectacular, the next subdued and almost lost in the music himself.
Great licks, ‘70s feeling grooves, soulful funk, grimy blues toned riffs. Every possible combination is in the locker of this wonderful talented man and his band. His vocal has that ‘something’, the ‘thing’ that makes him a bit special, the tone, the vibe, the range of a soul singer with the grit and edge of a rock singer all blended into a big pot of awesomeness and dished out to the hungry masses.
One of the stand out moments for me was ‘Meds’ from ‘Salting Earth’. A class track with a ‘70s blues vibe which Kotzen nailed tonight – pure class lyrically, “Tell me how I woke up next to you, I don’t remember coming here…”, an awesome songwriter with lyrics that just fit the music. Kotzen playing the piano rather than guitar, generating a vibe that makes you feel you are listening to some talented old soul playing the music, lost in their own world, eyes closed transported to another time or another place, Kotzen may have an old soul but the difference is he takes you with him to that place, on that journey, leading you by the ears and holding you with him.
‘War Paint’ is a crowd pleaser – all ages singing along, appreciative glances and those knowing smiles of yep – this is good!
How has the night gone so quickly! We are onto the encore already...
‘Damned’ and ‘You Can’t Save Me’ with its powerful lyrics, “ Not afraid to make a fool out of myself, And fuck your money, fuck your fame, fuck my life I walk away. And fuck I love, fuck I’m sorry for everything I ever done, You can’t save me…” sung with passion, venom, hurt, pain, anger, sadness, the emotions ebbing out of the guitar and voice so well and ably assisted by a few hundred appreciative fans, drawing the night to a close.
During the evening Kotzen said he had played at The Robin 3 or 4 times over the few years and I do hope he plays many more times. The mix of ages in the room was heartwarming to see.
A man who seems more comfortable playing his own music, singing his words to his songs, delighting all those there rather than telling stories and amusing the crowds. Go and get tickets to see this man, appreciate his music and his talent. He is one of the best there is and every true rock and blues fan needs to hear the marvellousness that is Richie Kotzen.
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