Rock guitar virtuosos Richie Kotzen, Vinnie Moore and Gus G have teamed up for a West Coast mini-tour that wraps with a triple-threat set at the Canyon Santa Clarita on Friday, Sept. 28.
Each musician has earned a fiercely loyal international following among rock and metal guitar fans for stints in more famous groups – Poison, UFO and Ozzy Osbourne’s backing band, respectively – as well as extensive solo touring and recording.
Kotzen, also ex-Mr. Big and The Winery Dogs, is a singer, writer and multi-instrumentalist with more than 20 solo albums in his catalog since 1989, “Salting Earth” the most recent in 2017.
Moore is among the most influential rock guitarists of the last few decades, emerging from the virtuoso boom of the mid-to-late 1980s.
Gus G, Ozzy’s lead guitarist since 2009, also fronts Firewind, has been a member of Arch Enemy and Dream Evil, and has a dozen-plus solo albums to his credit.
The three axe-wielders launched their tour in Scottsdale Sept. 18, and hit Las Vegas, Portland, Seattle, Oakland and Sacramento on the way to final shows at the Canyon Santa Clarita Sept. 28, the Canyon Agoura Hills Sept. 29 and The Rose in Pasadena Sept. 30.
“We’re not playing together, we’re doing our own sets,” Kotzen said on the phone en route to the first gig. “But Santa Clarita is near the end of the tour, so by the time we get there, who knows? Hah!”
These dates are the first Kotzen, Moore and Gus G have co-headlined (they also conveniently share a booking agency).
“I used to go see Vinnie’s (guitar) clinic when I was a teenager,” said Kotzen, now 48. “I was a big fan when I was young. I’m not as familiar with Gus but I know he’s a fantastic musician. So, I’m excited about the whole lineup – it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Kotzen’s hard-rocking bandmates, drummer Mike Bennett and bassist Dylan Wilson, have worked with him for eight and seven years, respectively.
“We’re a power trio,” Kotzen said. “We’ve traveled all over the world together and know each other very well.”
As to his setlist: “We do stuff from (“Salting Earth”) and go back as far as 1994,” he said. “With so many solo albums out, I have a lot of material to choose from.”
Among other career highlights, Kotzen opened for The Rolling Stones on their 2006 “Bigger Bang” tour of Japan – the only time the Stones have had an opening act there.
“Why did they choose me? I’m just a bad-ass mother(bleep)er, that’s why!” Kotzen wisecracked. “Seriously, the agency that used to book me in Japan got The Rolling Stones, and I said to the (agency), ‘Wow, I’d just love to open for The Rolling Stones.’ And they took me seriously.
“The people who worked for the Stones went to my website, watched a couple videos and said, ‘Oh, okay, that’s fine,’” Kotzen said. “And they told me I could go anywhere on the stage except the ramp. That’s Mick’s turf.”
Kotzen wound up playing all the Stones’ half-dozen Japanese dates that tour.
“I didn’t tell anyone I was doing it until after I’d performed the first show,” he said. “I was afraid I’d get there and they’d change their minds.”
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Find the Canyon Santa Clarita on the ground floor of the Westfield Valencia Town Center. Get tickets at the box office 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, by phone at 888-645-5006, or via TicketMaster.com. For more info, visit WheremusicmeetstheSoul.com.