Richie Kotzen live at Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, Illinois, USA Concert Review


Date: May 4, 2017
Venue: Arcada Theatre
Location: St. Charles, Illinois, USA
Reviewer: Jake Warkel
Photographer: Jacob Warkel Photography

Well I’m back at one of my favorite Chicagoland venues — Arcada Theatre in St Charles, Illinois — to check out some of Richie Kotzen’s new songs live from the Salting Earth album that was released last month on his own custom label, Headroom-Inc. Richie is out supporting his new album Salting Earth which is his 21st solo album and which can be purchased at Richie Kotzen has been killing it with The Winery Dogs for the past few years now which has been a huge success. I’ve heard the new album as I own it and his amazing talents on guitar and vocals as well as his songwriting are by far more interesting on Salting Earth than his past solo works. Talk about a soulful 1970s sound and possibly early 1980s on this album.

I was stoked to see what songs he would play on this night from old to new. Richie has always been a rock, blues, jazz-fusion, groovy, pop rock, off course heavy metal and soulful musician that just brings it at his performances so I was definitely anxious for the show to start. The attendance on this night was not a sellout at this 900 seat capacity venue but the fans in attendance seemed to be excited to be out on a Thursday night here in lovely downtown St. Charles, Illinois to see Richie Kotzen. The fans were diverse in age, which is always awesome to see as well. I spoke to some of these fans and some that had done sound check/meet and greet prior to the show. I was amazed that some were talking about how great Richie‘s new album was with some thinking it’s his best work to date.

Richie started out the night with his groovy, bluesy rock song that has three dimensions of music in my opinion — “End Of Earth” — which is a song off of the new album Salting Earth. It elicited a well deserved response from the crowd. “Socialite” has great guitar licks that I had completely forgotten about as it had been awhile since I’d heard the song from Richie‘s first post-Poison solo album Mother Head’s Family Reunion released in 1994. Richie and his band played so tight on that. Richie then went to “Meds” off the new album and that’s when I was taken back into the soulful sound of the past. The crowd was enjoying the hell out of it although for half of them, it was likely the first time hearing this song. Richie took some time briefly to talk to the crowd after “Meds” and also inquired how many fans out there had purchased the new album Salting Earth. He then jokingly asked who downloaded it illegally and of course no one fessed up. He also thanked everyone who purchased his new album as well thanked those that came out tonight to show support for him. Then Richie continued on with “Love Is Blind” which is one of my favorite melodic, soulful heavy groove feeling tunes that he just kicked ass on.

Richie kept grooving with this funky tune “Your Entertainer” from off of his 2009 album Peace Sign. The crowd had just been up on their feet enjoying what had been going on so far until Richie sat down to play the keys on “My Rock” which let the crowd sit back and feel this soulful groovy tune from the new album. Richie continues on the keys with “Cannon Ball” also off the new album. The crowd response had been overwhelming thus far in appreciating Richie’s talents. Richie’s band broke down to jam out acoustically “Grammy” off the new album which was the first acoustic song and again another new song well received. I think Richie may have nailed this new album as the reaction tonight from the new material exceeded what my thoughts were going to be. I really find that to be an accomplishment in itself.

“Doing What The Devil Says To Do” from his 2006 release Into The Black was the second acoustic song which played out so well. Props to Dylan Wilson on bass who killed it on the bass — not only on this song but all the other tunes tonight. The third and last acoustic song on the night was “What Is” off his 1998 self-titled album. “What Is” saw Richie bringing it once again vocally. It’s a broken record with me — I know — but with someone that is so soulful and has such a powerful voice such as Richie Kotzen, it’s not too hard to praise that over and over again. The band was so tight and Richie’s vocals just so powerful, it’s hard not to be wrapped or drawn into his music. The Drum solo started out on the cajon then Mike Bennett moved to his drum kit which was also impressive and well done.

Richie was now back on the electric guitar playing “Fear” which is another song off of his 2006 release Into The Black and which is a fan favorite. This song just turned into one killer jam session. I wondered if after awhile it gets difficult to decide which songs get added in the setlist to play or not to play? Keeping the crowd moving with “Help Me”, Richie hit some falsettos with his funky guitar playing. It was just a pure fun song. New song “This Is Life” is a powerful soulful song and he nailed it. Even though the song would have been vocally challenging for most, Richie nailed the highs and with such power, it was unbelievable. As the wonderful trio of Kotzen, Wilson and drummer Mike Bennet left the stage, we knew they would come back out with an encore. Richie had time for one encore song to do and the one common song he usually ends the night with is “Fooled Again” from his 2007 album Go Faster. That song was a groovy way to end the night. Richie thanked the fans for coming out and supporting him again and mentioned that he loves coming to Arcada Theatre in St Charles. He welcomed the love and respect that he received and the way he is treated every time he comes to town.

Richie Kotzen is by far one of the most underrated guitarists out there. For so long now, I’ve always said that he’s never been given credit for his amazing guitar playing skills as I think he so well deserves. I think those that play guitar appreciate it and know how talented he is and how great he is, but maybe not so much for mainstream media. Vocally, Richie killed it on this night. Being so soulful, powerful and engaging makes Richie such a a remarkable performer and songwriter, and he is a “must see” if you never have. Tonight was a performance where Richie seemingly wanted to give the audience one emotional ride with his passion, sweat, drive and most of all, his love and joy of bringing music to the world.

Richie Kotzen’s setlist:
01. End of Earth
02. Socialite
03. Meds *
04. Love Is Blind
05. Your Entertainer
06. My Rock
07. Cannon Ball
08. Grammy (acoustic)
09. Doing What The Devil Says To Do (acoustic)
10. What Is (acoustic)
11. Drum solo
12. Fear
13. Help Me
14. This Is Life
15. Fooled Again