On Wednesday, September 19th, a trio of guitar virtuosos rolled into Las Vegas and made a stop at one of my favorite local music venues, Count's Vamp'd. With names like Richie Kotzen, Vinnie Moore, and Gus G adorning the Vamp'd billboard facing Sahara Avenue, it was no surprise that the building was filled to capacity. This was an evening many of us music lovers had been waiting for, and I even had friends who came out from as far as Nebraska just for this show.
Gus G was the first to take the stage, kicking off a night of mind-blowing guitar skills. Gus G (born Konstantinos Karamitroudis) is a Greek heavy metal guitarist who tours internationally, playing music from a stellar solo catalogue, but also has a well-established band called Firewind, with eight studio albums to date. Gus G garnered significant notoriety while doing a stint with Ozzy Osbourne as Zakk Wylde's replacement, which ended when Wylde was eventually brought back on board. For this tour Gus G has teamed up with American bass player and music producer, Dennis Ward, who is also handling lead vocals for the band, while Patrick Johanssen works the drums. Gus G is the self-proclaimed "more metal" guy on the billing, and absolutely shreds on his Signature Jackson Gus G Star. He played the entire set with his satin black version of the Star, except during "Letting Go", where he opted for a satin white version. If you are a fan of guitar virtuosos you will enjoy watching this guy work. Be prepared for the moment during "I Am The Fire", when he puts his guitar behind his head, while continuing to pick strings without missing a chord. Not only is he a supremely talented artist, but he is a genuinely humble, down-to-earth guy. I had the pleasure of sitting down with him and some mutual friends after the show and just chatting a bit. It was the perfect way to end another incredible night of music in Vegas...but that was later. There was still much more to come!
Gus G Set List:
Thrill of the Chase
I am the Fire
Gus G photos from Randy Udell / R U Rockin' Photos
Vinnie Moore was the second act in this holy-trinity of shredders. Moore is an American guitarist and a member of the British hard rock band UFO, and is considered to be one of the most influential guitarists to emerge during the mid-to-late eighties. For Moore's set Patrick Johanssen again handled the percussion duties, and Dennis Ward remained on bass guitar, but they also added the talented Randy McStine for a second guitarist. As expected, Moore came out and got right to work, showing his prowess on his Signature Dean Semi-Hollow VINMAN in metallic white. This guy has not lost a step over the years and can still handle a 6-string with the best. Always hailed for his precision and skill, this guy's picking and finger work is a beauty to behold. I found myself just staring at his hands through the majority of the set. For his final tune of the night, "Meltdown", he switched to his Vinnie Moore Signature Mind's Eye which has a motif from his first solo album of that same name (Mind's Eye, 1986). Vinnie is truly a rare talent, and seeing him play was worth the price of admission alone.
Vinnie Moore Set List:
With The Flow
Check It Out!
Vinnie Moore photos from Randy Udell / R U Rockin' Photos
Richie Kotzen was the final act for the evening. Kotzen is an American guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer. Kotzen has had an extensive solo career, with a catalogue of more than twenty studio albums. He was also a member of the glam-rock band Poison, Mr. Big, and since 2012 has been the frontman of the band The Winery Dogs. For this tour Richie has brought along talented drummer, Mike Bennett, as well as renowned bassist, Dylan Wilson. They kicked their set off with "Losing My Mind", and I soon started to wonder if that's what was happening to me. Not only is this man a brilliant guitarist, but he is an unbelievable vocalist!
I was not familiar with his body of work, but I immediately became a fan. One interesting thing to note is that he does not use a pick. Apparently, a while back he began to feel as though he was in a bit of a rut with his guitar playing, so he decided to go out on stage without one. While this greatly affected his tone and technique, he soon became prolific and has not used a pick since then. His gritty, gravelly vocals are soulful and soothing, and fit beautifully with his blues/jazz style of guitar playing. Not only that, but he is exceptional on the keys as well, occasionally setting aside his Signature Telecaster to sit down at the keyboard and show that he is not just a one-trick pony. Talent just oozes out of his performance, and while his set was the longest of the three, it felt as though it went by too fast. Fortunately, the extremely vocal capacity crowd encouraged him to come back out and do a two-song encore. I was thoroughly impressed by Kotzen's overall performance, and as soon as I got home, I ordered his double CD The Essential Richie Kotzen. If, like me, you are new to Kotzen's music I would highly recommend it as it provides a solid, hand-picked by Richie, overview of his amazing music career.
Richie Kotzen Set List:
Losing My Mind
Love is Blind
You Can't Save Me
Richie Kotzen photos from Randy Udell / R U Rockin' Photos