“Never go full cowboy”. Wise words imparted by Mrs Shiflett to her husband in a text after she had seen photos of his sartorial choices for this brief UK tour. Truth be told, whilst the guitarist donned a Stetson for part of the set, there was no welter of rhinestones, tassels, string ties or ornate boots on display, just denim jeans and a blue shirt that Chris Shiflett pronounced was kept especially clean for tonight.
Chris Shiflett – Scala, London – 28 March 2023
Words: Paul Monkhouse
Photography: Eric Duvet
Whilst his initial solo releases were a respectful love song to that brand of American folk music he had grown up listening to, his later releases have moved more into a rootsy rocking territory. With a new album due in the Autumn, this back-to-basics jaunt was a pure blast of blue-collar rock ‘n’ roll that provided both a career-spanning overview and a mouth-watering promise of what was to come.
Away from the stadiums he usually plays with the Foo Fighters, there was an obvious joy here. The ability to connect with a room full of people was something to be revelled in as the immediacy of the reaction there plainly in front of him.
The same sense of community that is present at a show by Dave Grohl’s outfit was here, but the much smaller confine of the Scala meant that interaction was on a much more personal and immediate level, a woman in the crowd able to hand Shiflett a polaroid photo she had just taken rather than launching it into the void.
Another by-product of the hit-and-run nature of the tour was a necessity to strip away as much as possible regarding personnel, the tight trio of Shiflett, bass player Fox Fagan and drummer Robert Jolly presented with the aid of some additional instrumentation that had been pre-recorded.
Whilst those at the rear of the floor may initially have strained to see a keys player or second guitarist, this use of backing made no difference to the enjoyment of the night, band and audience just digging into the whole celebratory atmosphere. Tonight was about the songs, Shiflett, the genial host of the party.
With a set that ranged from the Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers-ish Liars Word to the punch and razor-sharp riffing of Thought You’d Never Leave, it was good to see the band create a barroom atmosphere in the legendary Scala, the playing tight but loose enough to give a sense of real joy.
Throwing in the psychedelic vibe of Blow Out The Candles and prime boogie of Goodnight Little Rock kept the patchwork of influences going, the guitarist thumbing through a lifetime’s record collection and dipping into his years writing and performing way before becoming best known as a Foo Fighter.
It was in this obvious pleasure of being onstage like this and being able to explore this verdant catalogue of material that the band shone brightest, the naturally symbiotic relationship between performers and audience shutting out the rest of the world for that sacred few hours.
Black Top White Lines was another driving rocker, the Billy Gibbons-inspired fretwork providing a nice tip of the soon-to-be-worn Stetson to more bluesy roots and the Countryfied romp Room 102 and soulful Fool’s Gold shone like diamonds.
Exuding the same easy-going charm of Foos bandmate Dave Grohl, there was a lot of humour peppered throughout the set, from the praising the “magic sauce for guitars” of the capo to playing tiny snatches of Oasis staple Wonderwall there was much to smile about. There was even time to celebrate the birthday of Jolly, the John Bonham t-shirt-wearing sticksman grinning widely as he was presented with a cake replete with one candle as the audience serenaded him in time-honoured fashion.
The set reached its climax with a rumbunctious I’m Still Drunk and the reggae stylings of forthcoming single Damage Control before a swift encore of Rolling Stone’s favourite Dead Flowers, where support Dea Matrona came back onstage to join in the fun.
With Merle Haggard’s Working Man Blues and Hank Williams Jr’s call and response of Family Tradition digging back into that wonderfully spiky Outlaw Country era, it was just left to a romp through West Coast Town to close the night in suitably high-spirited fashion.
Vowing to be back again soon, Shiflett and Co gave everyone exactly what they needed, a night of good time, rootsy rock ‘n’ roll and the sales of Stetsons surely went up following this brief but sweet visit. Don’t forget, though, rhinestones are best left to The Ole Opry.
Read the Dea Matrona report here: https://www.metaltalk.net/dea-matrona-rising-stars-of-rock-tour-with-chris-shiflett.php.