Richie Kotzen and his band kicked off their 2017 world tour at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills on Friday, April 21st. In support of his new album, Salting Earth, Kotzen is embarking on a 5 month tour, including stops in South America, Japan, Australia and Europe.
As the gathering crowd awaits the arrival of the main attraction, San Francisco based Evolution Eden breaks the ice. The quartet consists of: Brandon Owen, lead guitar, vocals; Mike Pappas, lead vocals, rhythm guitar; Andy Hewett, bass guitar, backing vocals, and Jim Bove, drums. They crank out a set of 70’s style hard rock, laced with songs from their latest album, Modern Nostalgia. Their sound, while not unique, is however refreshingly reminiscent of a time when rock radio was king. This time warp is best illustrated by D.O.A., with its driving riff and their anthem for hormone raging, 50-somethings, Falling in Love by the Radio Light. For you younger readers, there was a time when radios had a glowing, analog tuning dial. Ask your parents.
Los Angeles four piece, Alpanian is the last under card act on the bill. They are: Edwin Alpanian, lead guitar; David Mavis Senescu, bass guitar; Ben Mechelin, drums and Andrew Aragon on vocals. Their set of guitar fueled progressive hard rock is well-defined by Alpanian’s skillful guitar play. The strength of their set is the instrumental pieces, most notably Uprise and from their 2009 self titled release, Downshift.
Kotzen and his band, Dylan Wilson, bass guitar and Mike Bennett, drums, take the stage at a few minutes past 9:00 p.m. to a grateful crowd. The audience is a mix of people as diverse as Kotzen’s music. The make up ranges from people in their 20’s, who are no doubt there to hear him play his guitar like few others can, to married couples in their late 40’s and early 50’s, enjoying an evening of a mix of stripped down, soulful, funky rock and roll. In this case, stripped down, does not mean bare bones. There is plenty of meat in which to sink one’s teeth in this performance.
Backed by the foundation of Wilson and Bennett, both of whom also contribute backing vocals, Kotzen has created a three-piece house, in which they provide the structural integrity and he provides the curb appeal. That is to say that Wilson and Bennett stand out by not standing out, by providing solid balance to Kotzen’s free-flowing artfulness, and serving the purity of the music.
Seeing Kotzen perform raises an interesting question in the mind of the spectator. When he puts on his guitar, does it become part of him, or he does he become part of it? The two seem to mesh in a beautiful symbiosis, like two organisms that need each other for survival. Music just seems to emanate from him through his guitar and his voice. Those two things, combined with the physical expressiveness of bodily contortions and accentuating gestures, confirm that you are witnessing something that is genuine in the rarest sense. Maybe the answer to the question is, that the two become an entirely different creation, apart from their separate embodiments.
The set also features Kotzen playing electric piano for four songs, as well as a three number acoustic set. The acoustic set has all three musicians at the stage front, Kotzen on acoustic guitar, Wilson on stand up electric bass and Bennett sitting on and playing the cajon, or acoustic beat box. The acoustic portion is an intimate section of the program and the band seem to really enjoy the proximity with each other and the organic atmosphere of the moment. They play six songs off of the 10 track Salting Earth. The main set finale is one of the six, This is Life, an R&B tune accentuating his soulful and ranging vocal abilities. Just like that, a 90 minute set is over, and it felt like it had just started. Thankfully Kotzen and company return for a three song encore.
This inaugural show of the tour was not without its challenges, as will often happen for first any things. Kotzen’s signature model Telecaster, apparently was suffering from a bad jack. This unfortunate turn of events was discovered upon the first attempted employment of it. So, he had to power through just utilizing his Stratocaster. So, if by viewing the photographs of this performance, and I hope you will, you wonder where his Tele is, you have your answer. Kotzen himself even alluded to those challenges, stating, “next time we come to Los Angeles, we’ll bring equipment that works.” That is probably frustrating for an artist, but the audience didn’t seem to mind too much, if at all.
CLICK HERE to view more pics from the show.