THE WINERY DOGS, Inglorious, @O2 Institute, Birmingham 5/2/16


The hot streak continues

A little while before Christmas, a new album arrived through the door at MV towers. A debut album from a newly formed six piece, it was a stunning affair. You’ll know this for yourselves when Inglorious finally release it in a matter of days, but the question is always the same with a young band without a record out: can they do it live? The answer here is pretty emphatic. Hell. Yes. It takes all of about 20 seconds of opener “Until I Die” to prove that, and there really isn’t any let up from thereon in. Afforded a lengthy set, they play nine of the songs that you’ll be singing come the year end. “Breakaway” sounds like Whitesnake when they were young and thrusting, “Holy Water” is dark and bluesy, and “You’re Mine” is the best thing on the record and repeats the dose here as singer Nathan James hits those high notes. They flesh out the set with a couple of covers. Rainbow’s “I Surrender” is such a great song that it’s the pick of them, but it’s their own songs that astonish. Such is the confidence, the swagger and the level of certainty that this band isn’t ready to fail. As “Unaware” soars off into some Free-like horizon and closes the set, it does seem pretty clear that you’ll be seeing a lot more of the glorious Inglorious.

Three prodigious musicians, from all types of backgrounds. Skill levels that mere mortals only dream of, millions of records sold in their day jobs – and you’d imagine with only one reason to be here: because they quite fancy playing some hard rock.

That’s essentially The Winery Dogs in a nutshell. Richie Kotzen on guitar and vocals, Billy Sheehan on bass and Mike Portnoy on drums is something approaching a dream team and even if, as MV has said before, no three piece rock band has ever sucked, that still doesn’t give them a right to be quite as good as this.

Last year the trio released their second record, “Hot Streak”. It didn’t reinvent any wheels. It merely carried on the good work of their debut, and after Snoop Dogg plays us in, the set begins with a couple from it. “Oblivion” is good. The AC/DC crunch of “Captain Love” is better still and is a very fine example of why this band is so very special. Clearly their popularity is on the rise too, in the 18 months since they were last in (roughly) these parts their crowd has more than doubled.

Let’s be honest, if they wanted to, they could wig out like a Frank Zappa gig and amuse only themselves. Here, however, the songs are king and if each has their little runs – Portnoy drumming the floor and the wall at one point, Kotzen cutting loose a couple of times and Sheehan playing a lengthy, complicated solo then it’s largely within the confines of a track. And there’s plenty of great ones for them to play here. “Empire” is a cowbell driven thumper, “Fire” – played by Kotzen acoustically and solo – is tender, while “The Other Side” is the closest this gets to a jam session, and it’s brilliantly done.

Mostly though, these are just timeless hard rock classics being played for kicks, and that’s just perfect. “Elevate” – still perhaps TWD’s trump card – closes the set, but the encore not only has the slow building “Regret”, but also a marvellous “Desire” which sees Sheehan finally lose his air of cool and yell “Boomshakalaka” into his mic and Portnoy play the drums with his stool.

It’s that kind of evening. The Winery Dogs are that kind of band, and they really do look like they are having the time of their lives.

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