Kicking off with the glorious harmonies of ‘Taking My Chances’, Adrian and Richie effortlessly recreated the sound from their brace of records from the off, but with an added spark of inspiration in front of the capacity crowd.
Greeting the audience in his broad East London accent, the Jackson-wielding Smith said; “Hello Las Vegas, thanks for coming out!”, to a huge cheer. In a candid admission he continued; “you wouldn’t believe how much work this has taken to get on the road!”
Going straight into the driving ‘Better Days’ - the title track from their 2021 Record Store Day EP - the groove-laden ‘Some People’ followed, with Adrian introducing it as; “a song about people who get on your nerves!”.
With a formidable chemistry on stage, it was clear that this was more than just a passion project for the pair. Effortlessly trading licks and sharing lad vocal duties, the eponymous front men faced off against one and other, coming together at the lip of the stage to pose, shred, and face down the front rows.
Kotzen, whose fingerstyle on his Fender Telecaster acted as the perfect foil to Adrian’s more structured bluesy licks, took to the mic to admit how glad he was to have finally gotten the project together for live shows. “I’m so happy to be here with Adrian”, he revealed.
Blasting through the entirety of their self-titled 2021 debut, the tracks sizzled, from scorching album highlight ‘Solar Fire’ to the brooding singalong 'Scars'.
Playing his first shows away from his day job since 1999, in a knowing nod to Iron Maiden’s more straight ahead heavy metal bombast Smith introduced the moody ‘I Wanna Stay’ by telling the crowd; “we’re going to slow it down now… It’s been a while since I’ve said that!”
With fans coming from all over America - some travelling thousands of miles just to be there - this was a gig that attracted the hardcore, and they were not left disappointed. The band meanwhile, seemed to be enjoying every single moment as much as the delighted audience.
Encoring with Kotzen solo gem 'You Can't Save Me', the highlight of the night came with a run through Iron Maiden’s ‘Wasted Years’. Written by the guitarist in 1986, it was a rare treat to see Adrian sing lead vocals, with Kotzen providing a perfect high harmony in the chorus.
Closing with “the first song Adrian and me wrote together”, in the ’22 Acacia Avenue’ reminiscent ‘Running’ – check those descending chords in the chorus – the band took their bows on what had been a triumph for the master musicians.
Taking their bows Adrian said; “Thanks very much, we love ya!”, before adding; “Thank you for coming out tonight. It’s been great to be back on stage”.
Smith Kotzen continue their California tour in San Diego on Sunday night (23rd January). The band begin a six-date UK run on March. For a full list of dates, see below.
Dedicated to Iron Maiden Blood Brother Ray Best (Bestie): 1976 – 2022. RIP.
Smith / Kotzen 2022 dates:
23 Jan - Brick By Brick, San Diego, CA
26 Jan - Goldfield Trading Post, Roseville, CA
27 Jan - The Siren, Morro Bay, CA
28 Jan - Ventura Theatre, Ventura, CA
27 Feb - Manchester Club Academy
28 Feb - Leeds Brudenell Social Club
02 Mar - Glasgow Garage
03 Mar - Wolverhampton KK’s Steel Mill
05 Mar - Leamington Spa Winters End
07 Mar - Bristol Fleece
08 Mar - London Islington Assembly Hall
Tickets for US shows are available here. Tickets for UK shows available here.