Richie Kotzen

Venue: Annexe Studio, Esplanade, Singapore
Date: 21st August 2017
Promoter: LAMC Productions
Review by: Shai
Special Thanks: The LAMC Productions team

It was a wet, humid, Monday evening in Esplanade, a venue many would consider to be Singapore’s signature shrine for the performing arts. With the sight and scent of smoke sizzling in the air, courtesy of the “Glutton by The Bay” hawker’s paradise right next door, it seems like the scene is psyched for “Salting Earth” to sonically set the stage aflame.

And fire up it did! From the get go, the audience, made up mostly of mature musos from across the region, were treated to tantalising tracks, spanning Richie Kotzen’s 30-years young career. The experience befits this venue of ‘worship’, with each tune tastefully treated as if they were hymns to hypnotise, stimulate, and satisfy these supporters for the first time.

This world class multi-instrumentalist who, in this reviewer’s opinion, is the hard-rocking version of the late, great Prince, masterfully blends his guitar licks and tricks with elements of funk, soul, R&B, heavy metal, and more into a progressive mould, that’s all too apparent from the very first song “End of Earth”, off of the new album, the aforementioned Salting Earth.

His eclectic style of songwriting is showcased further with “Socialite”, although from 1994, sounds seamlessly at ease at this day and age with its rapturous riffing. The time-travel roller coaster ride continues with “Meds”, from the new album, yet packed with soulful sounds of decades past. The crowd took it all in, as Kotzen and co. launched another load of heavy grooves on them in the form of 2011’s melodic masterpiece, “Love Is Blind”, which got everyone ecstatically singing along.

Not satisfied in just blazing through the super jumbo frets of his signature Stratocaster and Telecaster guitars, the living legend further demonstrated his mettle on the keys as he belted off another soulful number in “My Rock”, followed by “Cannon Ball”, both off the new album. The crowd responded really well to Salting Earth, Richie’s 21st solo album that sees the maestro recording every note himself. That fact takes nothing away from his two touring bandmates, Mike Bennett and Dylan Wilson who are beasts on the drums and bass, respectively, complementing Richie’s tricks at every turn.

Both had plenty of moments to shine, as Dylan highlighted his skills on the upright bass during Richie’s acoustic segment, right before Mike Bennett sent everyone into a trance, starting from the cajon, before moving to his drum kit, demonstrating a well done definition of a solo done right.

Another fan favourite quickly ensued, as 2006’s “Fear” got everyone screaming in delight, prompting the trio to transform it into a lengthy jam, laying the perfect foundation for the night’s climaxing moment. Richie’s killer falsettos funked-up “Help Me” another notch, before sending the crowd to cloud nine with “This Is Life”, a soulful set closer that stretches his angelic vocals, a demand that Richie delivers in droves, testified by the orgasmic Singaporean screams for more, as the trio left the stage right after. The expected encore promptly went on with the heavy grooves of “Fooled Again”, handing out one last hurrah to the grateful audience who have finally managed to catch their musical idol in the flesh at these shores.

All in all, the diverse crowd in attendance stands as a testament of the brilliance of Richie Kotzen both as an instrumentalist and a singer. His guitar skills are, of course, a point of no contention, since he simply runs circles around more celebrated names with his songwriting repertoire alone. Couple that with his soulful onstage swagger and seemingly endless musical drive, it is suffice to say that the decades have been worth the wait, and then some.