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Live review: The Winery Dogs

It’s all about the bass.

Interrupting a perfectly good gig for a bass solo is usually the equivalent of the gig reviewer crowbarring in a chunk of their experimental novel. Until you hear The Winery Dogs’ Billy Sheehan assault his instrument like a flamenco finger ninja. Having held his own alongside Vai, he’s capable of tapping and plucking entire low-end oratorios out of his four strings or recreating the mating call of a hyperactive sea lion.

His two bandmates in supergroup The Winery Dogs share his virtuoso skill: singer/guitarist Richie Kotzen, of Poison and Mr. Big, might well be moonlighting as the toughest challenge-setter for_ Guitar Hero_, and the crowd-rousing Mike Portnoy, once of Avenged Sevenfold and Dream Theater, drums as if being whipped from below by Beelzebub. He even manages to get a solo out of drumming the stage itself.

Their technical talents, though, tend to overshadow their songs. Besides fiery closer Desire, Bowie tribute Moonage Daydream, and the moment where the chorus of Time Machine lifts off like a buried UFO, these are formulaic riff rampages. Take the sleazy blues of Captain Love, the funk-metal struts of How Long, or second album title track Hot Streak. Or Kotzen’s subtler numbers: when he goes solo acoustic for Fire it’s more of a boy-band ballad than an arena-silencer, and when he plays the keyboard for Think It Over and Regret he’s transformed into an unremarkable boogie-bar soul man. Still, man, those solos…

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