Well, OK, maybe it wasn’t the actual Tokyo Dome, but that’s a good thing. Instead, across a giant plaza from the dome is something called the Meets Port, which contains this relatively new performance space called the Tokyo Dome City Hall. It was designed with acoustics for musical performances and my buddy and I were lucky enough to get seats literally on top of the soundboard. A perfect spot to watch the show.
Many people are divided on the Winery Dogs. Their music is challenging, without a lot of hooks, and it can be difficult to listen to. When I wrote a review of their latest album, Hot Streak, (read it here) I wrote that I thought the songs had a catchier feel to them, and it felt like the band’s time together was starting to produce more accessible music. I’m not sure the crowd felt that way, though.
To be fair, Iron Maiden, DragonForce, and Stryper were all in Tokyo this week, but they still managed to almost sell out the 3,000-seat theater for two nights. With the view that we had, we could see that other than the front row, most of the crowd was just trying to keep up.
Regardless, Richie Kotzen, dressed in his best Johnny Depp look, Billy Sheehan, the Man in Black, and Mike Portnoy, dressed like the jock from New York, put on a brilliant performance. They started out with three songs back to back, including the first two from the new album, “Oblivion” and “Captain Love”. I can’t say enough about their musicianship. The songs all the way through were tightly choreographed and filled with Kotzen’s brilliant, sometimes soulful voice. With only two albums of material so far, they were obliged to play a lot of the new album. The funky songs “Hot Streak” and “How Long” were also played together before the first album’s “Empire”.
Of course, the guys got a chance to show off their talents in solos. Kotzen started it off with a moving version of “Fire” by himself on the keyboards, which led into the keyboard intro on “Think It Over”, before his bandmates joined him. Next up was a short solo by Portnoy. I said on the album review I thought his parts were a little simple compared to his earlier work, so it was good to see him let loose here. In many of the songs, he could be seen twirling his sticks or tossing them in the air in between challenging parts. Last up was Sheehan, who dazzled with his bass, playing it like it was a lead guitar. In fact in a couple of songs, he and Kotzen played the same parts or traded off solos. It was a jaw-dropping performance.
After playing my favorite song from the first album, the single “Elevate”, they took a quick break and came back for “Regret” and the also-great “Desire”. It was a masterful performance, without any banter or stage production – just three guys showing us what can be done with strings and sticks. In fact, the only time they really spoke to the crowd at length was after the show, when they brought out a cake for Portnoy’s birthday. They simply let their music do the talking.
We Are One
Think It Over
The Other Side
I’m No Angel
The Winery Dogs albums are available on Amazon through the link on the Decibel Geek homepage!
Written by: Dave Glynn
PHOTO CREDITS: Masahiro Kawakami