Richie Kotzen – Salting Earth

Walking up to Brick by Brick in San Diego one couldn’t ask for a more picturesque moment.  The cavalcade of colors painted in the sky punctured with silhouettes of palm trees, power lines, and a beautiful streamlined Prevost tour bus set the tone for an evening of live music.  When you’re a rock ’n’ roller you tour the world, and when you do, you travel as a rock’ n’ roller should.   Stationed directly in front of Brick by Brick venue in San Diego, CA. you can almost hear a greeting from the tour bus generator humming to you as you pass it. “Welcome, here stands rock ‘n’ roll!”

My photographer is greeted with a hand shake and a warm hello by Uriah Duffy of prog rock band “Points North” from San Francisco, CA.   The bay doors are still open on the side of the building with the final crates of equipment being loaded in.  You can hear the tuning of guitars and checking of amplifiers and drums shouting from inside prepping for sound check.   With a few hours to burn till show time I powered up my laptop and dove deeper into the awesome sound of Richie Kotzen’s newest L.P. “Salting Earth”. Trying not to formulate an immediate opinion I let the album play. Track after track a more elaborate tapestry is woven to the sound of Richie’s unforgettable voice and soul full swag.   With so much talent and versatility on sonic display one could definitely find themselves getting lost in this album for hours.

It’s become a part of our culture in the “Youtube” generation to just find the music live online and watch to see how the artists performance is.   No amount of surround sound, noise cancelling head phones, Hi-Definition LED display monitor home theater  system can replicate a true live show experience.  So get up, get out, and go support live music!  If there is one thing I have come to learn over the years of going to live shows especially when you haven’t seen the band live before, enter with no expectations, allow yourself to get lost in the moment, and let the music speak to you.  When an artist truly loves what they do its almost as if their energy and excitement pours into the audience, enhancing the show tenfold.  Points North finished up their epic set of melodic prog rock instrumental mayhem
with that exact energy.

With minutes to show time I find myself standing in the middle of an audience that is littered with “winery dogs “T-shirts and one hundred percent Richie Kotzen fans.  The house lights dim and the stage lights go dark, as the introduction music starts playing.  You can see shadowy figures taking the stage as the music begins to swell you can hear the instrument mics go hot and subtle hints of feedback and amp fuzz begin to make their way into the house PA system until the intro music stops.  The first notes ring in from Richie’s guitar and then Boom! The drums fire out like thunder as the bass barrels in filling up the rest of the room.  The place lights up as the band kicks in to “End of Earth” a power rock tune that forces your heart to beat harder and your body to flood with energy.  What a beginning to a great set that would display a true balance of songwriting talent, technical prowess and musical diversity.   Not having seen Richie perform live before I, as a guitar player myself, noticed that Mr. Kotzen was not using a guitar pick to strum the notes he was playing.  Few and far between are the truly talented guitar players that tour to make a living in this business.  Even fewer are the ones that do it so flawlessly night after night, but without a pick? Two other active successful bands that I know of have guitarist that perform with this technique.  One is Fleetwood Macs Lindsey Buckingham and Two is Reliant K’s Matt Theissen and now Richie Kotzen.
If you didn’t know any better you would just assume that he was playing the guitar just like every other amazingly talented guitarist that uses the accessory.  As the set moved forward Richie went from being a stoic rock veteran to a cool soulful crooner of piano driven rock ballads.  I am baffled and amazed how effortless he made it all look and sound. Letting his heart pour out with every note and every word sung.  The crowd was eating up every morsel of sweet musical fruit being chopped up and served to its fullest potential.  Everybody in attendance left that venue with a look of sweet satisfaction on their face which I am quite sure they wore around proudly the rest of the week.  Thank you Mr. Kotzen for such a great Rock’n’Roll memory, it will echo on as one of my great live show experiences of 2017.


-Timmy D.   / BackStage360

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