Photo Credit: Paul Jasper, www.midlandsrocks.co.uk
I had the privelige to witness one of the worlds most talented guitarists last Wednesday night at the Islington O2 Academy. It’s no secret that I’m a massive Richie Kotzen fan so I simply couldn’t miss this gig, especially after the last UK dates were rather suddenly cancelled. When I arrived at the O2 Academy I was surprised at it’s size to be honest as it’s quite an intimate venue however it does make it perfect for watching someone like Richie Kotzen perform. It also has a pretty impressive PA system and a monster lighting rig for such a small venue.
Things took a while to get going however as the support band Cavalar got caught up in the student protests. After the world quickest setup and sound check however they hit the stage and despite a few hiccups with the sound in the first number sounded pretty good throughout their set with a fine guitar performance from Dan Panza.
Richie and his band hit the stage dead on 9pm and kicked things off with a superb rendition of ‘Losin my mind’ quickly followed by ‘A love divine’, ‘High’ and ‘Fooled again’. This set list read like a classic Richie Kotzen greatest hits with all the fan favourites in there. This was some performance and Richie’s guitar playing is something to behold but his voice is what that really stood out for me, incredibly soulful yet powerful and ultimately inspired. It’s also amazing the space this power trio can fill!
There was a big revelation for me as well. Richie didn’t use a pick for the entire gig. This gave him a subtle and versatile sound on his rhythm playing however the attack and tone he delivered on many of his searing guitar solos was incredible. This left a lasting impression on me and is something I’ll be trying out with my own guitar playing. His approach reminded me of Jeff Beck in some ways.
Richie was sporting one of his new signature black Fender Telecasters with a maple neck which looked and sounded the business. This was routed through a couple of vintage Marshalls although I wasn’t quite sure what model they were (let me know in the comments if know what Richie plays live these days).
It’s no surprise that the biggest round of applause was reserved for ‘You can’t save me’. Richie changed the chord progression slightly on this track and it sounded fuller and more powerful as a result and was a real highlight for me along with ‘Doin what the devil tells me to do’ (probably my favourite Richie Kotzen song). ‘You can’t save me’ was followed by the new single ‘Angry boy’ which is instantly catchy and surely one of Richie’s best songs to date.
The crowd loved every one of the songs right through to the superb encore of ‘Paying dues’. Great gig, great performance and an absolute pleasure to see one of the world’s greatest guitar players at the top of his game.
PS: If anyone has a photo of Richie and his band from the Islington 02 Academy gig please get in touch, we would love to feature it on this post.