Richie Kotzen + Porn Queen @ The Robin2, Bilston – Tuesday 6th March 2012

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Review by Peter Keevil and Pics by Rob Stanley

The Robin (the Robin2, if you want to get anal on me!) in Bilston is a proper venue. No early curfews due to club nights; beer in glass bottles that you are expected to place in the re-cycle bin when done; friendly door staff that assume you are a reasonable person and not looking for trouble. No wonder they win so many awards.

And if that doesn’t sound rock n roll enough for you, then just look at who’s playing on stage tonight – none other than guitar god (and with a voice to match) Richie Kotzen.

So when Woody had to pull out of reviewing the show at short notice and with support band Porn Queen (subtle!) not on until 8.45pm (see, told you it is a proper venue) it saw me legging it to the Black Country to get myself some serious 6-string action.

Porn Queen are from Luxembourg and although they will not re-write a musical genre they still peddle a fine brand of loose blues-based, hard rock n roll – delivered with a nice dirty guitar sound and songs all about the ‘riff’. I’m afraid I wasn’t over familiar with any of the songs tonight but they did a nifty rendition of ‘Paperback Writer’ and a cracking little ditty that I presume was called ‘Liar’.

Thankfully Richie Kotzen is putting in a little more effort over here in good ‘ol Blighty. He has returned and played here for each of his recent albums but with only 2 dates in the UK this time around it really is astounding that demand for his music is not higher. He truly is an exceptional talent.

On his last tour he inadvertently forgot his plectrums and being the artist he is, wasn’t content with using standard ‘shop bought’ ones, so played plec-free open-handed. That must have worked for him, as this time it appears he chooses to play that way and because of it he is even more mesmerising. Not only are the slack-jawed audience watching his fret-wrok but also taken aback by his right hand fingering.

Richie had made a personal appearance at PMT in Brum earlier in the day and that seemed to have placed him in a chatty mood. This was especially evident when during the first song he was getting shocks from the mic, causing a delay in proceedings as an embarrassed sound guy was anxiously trying to remedy the problem.

The set is littered with quality songs from across his recent albums. I remember Richie telling me in an interview last year that his band learn around 30/40 songs that he just chooses from as he goes through the night. Every gig is different.

Standout songs included Fear, Best of me, Fooled Again, tracks taken from his new album – 24 Hours, Love is Blind and Help Me, the latter free-forming into an extended jam that saw Richie’s stringwork eloquently dancing over the solid back-beat; along with the awesome closing salvo of You Can’t Save Me and Doing What The Devil Says To Do.

A short break and the trio return with a superb rendition of Remember before leaving us on the high of Go Faster.

Richie tried playing the O2 Academy in Brum last year but The Robin suits him better. He was more relaxed, chatting, smiling, less introspective and not ‘facing the band and playing for himself’ which he can sometimes lapse into as he immerses himself into the sonic delights that he caresses out of his new Kotzen Signature Fender. The flamboyant hand flourishes were there, the body bends, the attitude without any sense of arrogance – he was among friends and enjoying every moment playing for them.

Good, good times.

And you can see Rob’s pics here: