Friday, November 27, 2015

DVD Review: Richie Kotzen Live

If you're like me, or a lot of people, coming off the heels of the success of The Winery Dogs, you might not be very familiar with Richie Kotzen's solo career. He's flown under the radar for so long, and made plenty of records on his own, that knowing where to start is a complicated task. Thankfully, Richie is helping us out. Last year, he released a compilation of some of his best work, and now he is releasing a DVD showcasing a night of him playing his solo material, giving us the best window into these songs.

The trio enter the stage one by one, layering their way into "War Paint", has all the hallmarks of Richie's best work. There's groove, a few runs that shame normal musicians, and Richie soulful vocals putting out a memorable melody. Being a live performance, there's back and forth interaction where you can see why musicians enjoy playing live. There's enough of a question about exactly what comes next that you're never playing the same song exactly the same way twice.

Since I'm not familiar with these songs, every track is an opportunity to discover something new. The opening three songs show the diversity that a solo career can offer, going from the driving rock of the opener, to a bluesy rendition of "Love Is Blind", to the almost dance beat of "Bad Situation". I knew that Richie wasn't one to be pigeon-holed into a single sound, but I was impressed with how well he integrates those different approaches into music that never fails to sound like him.

I didn't care much for "Cannibals" when it was released prior to his most recent solo album, but the live version is more enjoyable than I remember the song. It's a technical exercise, and the ease with with Richie rips through the solo is both impressive and depressing, to someone who plays guitar himself.

The selection of songs for this show may or may not be Richie's best, I don't know enough to say, but they do make for a pleasurable show. Throughout the concert, these songs show just how much of The Winery Dogs' sound is actually Richie, as these sound like a less busy version of that band. There's more extended soloing here, and the feeling has more soul in it, but the sound is unmistakable.

One of the things that amazes me about a show like this is how exactly Richie manages to achieve a guitar tone that is so sharp and articulate while playing with his fingers. It's a little detail you would never guess if you were listening to just the audio, but watching him coax those sounds out of his Telecaster with just his fingers demonstrates a mastery of his instrument that is enviable. It's not easy. I'll give all of the credit to Richie himself, not just for his playing, but because guitar nerds will notice his own signature pedal at his feet, which is supplying those tones.

Also worth noting is the editing, which does a good job of keeping the focus on the most important parts of the songs, and doesn't jump cut every two seconds, assuming you have ADHD. The camera is allowed to linger long enough to give you a more immersive experience, almost as if you were in the theater and were trying to take it all in yourself. Restraint is difficult, and it works to make this much more enjoyable than a hyperactive presentation would.

"Richie Kotzen Live" is a show that I know fans of his will enjoy, but it's one that non-fans can get into as well. Whether you are already a fan of The Winery Dogs or not, this DVD showcases Richie's ability as a songwriter, which has sadly been unable to break through in many places. A few of the jams go on a bit long for my taste, and I could do without the bass and drum solo entirely, but "Richie Kotzen Live" is a good show, a better DVD package, and a nice way of digging into Richie's expansive catalog for some gems.

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree. But you should watch the live DVD from Brazil. Richie Kotzen is one of the greatest artist and the most underrated one.