[LIVE REVIEW] Richie Kotzen @ Max Watts, Melbourne – 26/08/2017

After more than 25 years in the music industry, Richie Kotzen has earned himself a reputation as one of the true guitar greats, as well as being an amazing singer/songwriter.

Having performed with the likes of Poison and Mr Big, to the masterpieces he is currently producing with The Winery Dogs, the majority of his lifetimes work has been his solo records.

Starting out as a tiny tot playing piano, Richie picked up his first guitar at aged only seven and the lifetime love affair with it has continued.

He was signed to Shrapnel Records, and recorded his first solo record at the tender age of only 19. This was an instrumental recording titled simply “Richie Kotzen”, however only one year later he recorded his first album where he performed vocals as well, called “Fever Dream”.

Since then, there have been a constant flow of albums, totalling more than twenty, with a range of influences such as rock, blues, pop, funk, and jazz contributing to his success.

So, given the extensive career behind him, it was very surprising to learn that this ‘Salting The Earth’ tour of Australia, was in fact the very first time for him.

Opening for Richie, was one of Australia’s most underrated singers, Rusty Brown. Rusty is frontman for the Melbourne based Electric Mary, a band who have garnered a considerable following both home and abroad. Their raw style of classic rock is gritty and captures the essence of how rock really should be. So, it was with that same rawness that Rusty performed an amazing acoustic set of tunes to warm the crowd. Including the Electric Mary songs Gasoline and Guns, Let Me Out, Stained, One Foot in the Grave and Sweet Mary C, named after the woman from whom Electric Mary got their name. Rusty retold the tale of how the name came to be, and it is one of those true rock tales that never gets old. We were also treated to a ripping cover of Foreigner’s Urgent. For anyone in the crowd who did not know Electric Mary before, I am sure Rusty’s killer set will definitely get them looking them up!

As the excitement in the room grew, the anticipation for Richie Kotzen was palpable. The standard length of time for changeover seemed to take forever, even though it was no longer than usual. People were shifting into the best vantage points of the room, and the buzz was nothing short of electric.

With much applause and cheering from the audience, the great man stepped out from the shadows.

There he was, looking as young, fresh and vibrant as ever. With those piercing blue eyes and big smile, it is hard for anyone not to feel his magnetic pull. With bassist Dylan Wilson and drummer Mike Bennett in tow, the listening pleasure was about to commence.

Starting out with End of Earth and Socialite, the amount of talent on display is almost beyond comprehension. Since Richie has completely given away using picks since 2007, and plays solely with his fingers, it is an absolute dream to watch him play. It is almost like he and his instrument are as one.

Moving swiftly into Meds, Go faster and Love is Blind, it is apparent that Richie has been equally as pedantic about his selection of band members, as they compliment him so very well.

Knocking out Your Entertainer, My Rock and Cannon Ball before taking some time to talk to the audience, Richie then transitions into the acoustic section of the set, with an mesmerizing display of percussion magic from Mike and an equally entertaining moment with Dylan and his bass prowess.

The balance of the set brings us such masterful tunes as Fear, Help Me, This Is Life and High.

Up until this point I had remained optimistic about whether or not I would hear my own personal favourite song, but assumed that as only the encore remained, the chances were getting slimmer. But to my surprise and sheer elation, once they returned to the stage, it was You Can’t Save Me that they ripped into, and the rest of the audience obviously were waiting for it too, as they let out an almighty cheer. It was probably the loudest I had heard the crowd sing also.

And with that last song done, the three fine gentlemen in front of us took a bow, and left the stage, but more so left the audience wanting more.  I think they could have played all night long and it still could not have appeased the appetite this crowd had. And it is not surprising. After all we had been treated to a damn near perfect evening of inexplicably good music, both from an instrumental and vocal point of view. So few have impressed me so greatly with how perfect the sound was. One could have been forgiven for thinking there was an album playing instead of a live performance, that is how polished it was.

Review Contributed by Jodi Marino

Full Gallery by Sebastian Marino can be found HERE