Chris Shiflett / Music At Its Most Life-affirming In Camden

Exactly a year since Chris Shiflett brought his ass-kickin’ blend of country, rock and punk to London, the Foo Fighters guitarist is back once more at Camden’s Electric Ballroom to bring back the good times and sunshine.

Chris Shiflett

Electric Ballroom, Camden – 27 March 2024

Words: Paul Monkhouse

Photography: Eric Duvet

Whilst the subterranean setting of the buzzing area may be a million miles away from the honky tonk bars and huge skies of Marlboro Man country, there’s a grit here that suits the blue-collar honesty of the material and the men playing it.

Chris Shiflett - Electric Ballroom, Camden - 27 March 2024
Chris Shiflett – Electric Ballroom, Camden – 27 March 2024. Photo: Eric Duvet/MetalTalk

Accompanied once more by bass player Fox Fegan and Robert Jolly on drums, the trio offer a stripped-back and raw take on the material, theirs a more visceral approach than the diamonds, rhinestones and white tasselled outfits that most think of when the words country music come to mind.

Not that Shiflett and Co eschew the heritage of years of the Grand Ole Opry. Indeed, this is more of a labour of love than some flirtatiously tentative side project. The recent album Lost At Sea is the fifth of the guitarist’s outings that captures this spirit.

Chris Shiflett - Electric Ballroom, Camden - 27 March 2024
Chris Shiflett – Electric Ballroom, Camden – 27 March 2024. Photo: Eric Duvet/MetalTalk

Having left his Stetson behind at home, this was Shiflett dressed in faded blue jeans and denim shirt, looking like he had just come off work at a car plant, shorn of all unnecessary trappings and just here to let the music do the talking and talk it did.

There’s a warmth to how much this music, to some an alien style to these shores, has been embraced in the UK. The packed audience were here as testament not just to the attraction of seeing the guitarist from one of the world’s biggest rock bands in an intimate venue, but to glory in the freewheeling material played.

Shed of any vestiges of buttoned-up reserve, the audience was with the trio from the off as the dust-raising Dead, and Gone brought a great groove and twang to open the set.

There’s a natural cadence in Shiflett’s voice that’s perfect for this material, and the storyteller comes out as he weaves his tales of good times and hard knocks, the folky aspect of country an evocative medium.

It’s not just the voice, though. The fretwork and solos on numbers like Carrie Midnight and the extended wig-out jam of Weigh You Down take things to another level entirely, Shiflett digging deep.

Chris Shiflett - Electric Ballroom, Camden - 27 March 2024
Chris Shiflett – Electric Ballroom, Camden – 27 March 2024. Photo: Eric Duvet/MetalTalk

Fegan and Jolly certainly hold their end up, too. The groove and power they bring as a rhythm section bring to mind ZZ Top at their classiest but with a bit of the shimmer of the Sun Records muscle, and this acts as the perfect base for the main man to provide his own magic.

The Eagles-type rocker Black Top White Lines rocks with a Life In The Fast Lane vibe, and the reggae tinge of Damage Control just can’t fail to raise a smile before the punk edge of Blow Out The Candles throws in a snarling and sneering attitude that adds a bit of fire to the belly.

It’s not just balls-out fun, though, as numbers like the breezy Long Long Year and Memories both burst with an upbeat sunshine disposition. The Tom Petty-ish swing of Overboard from the new album introduced as “this is a middle-aged love song”.

Chris Shiflett - Electric Ballroom, Camden - 27 March 2024
Chris Shiflett – Electric Ballroom, Camden – 27 March 2024. Photo: Eric Duvet/MetalTalk

A tale of seeking an old, cherished Thin Lizzy t-shirt in Camden Market led into their gloriously twisting take on Cowboy song. The night closed with the all-out good times of West Coast Town, the perfect end to an evening that celebrated all that’s great about a good time with great music, great friends and one or two beers.

Leaving the stage to enjoy some Greggs sausage rolls and cake to celebrate Jolly’s birthday, this welcome return of the California-based rocker and his crew showed a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle of the world outside.

With the warmth of smiling faces taken into the cool night air and the promise he would be back, this was music at its most life-affirming.

Stetson or not, it showed that there is nothing quite as good as having your roots show.

Chris Shiflett - Electric Ballroom, Camden - 27 March 2024
Chris Shiflett – Electric Ballroom, Camden – 27 March 2024. Photo: Eric Duvet/MetalTalk
Chris Shiflett - Electric Ballroom, Camden - 27 March 2024
Chris Shiflett – Electric Ballroom, Camden – 27 March 2024. Photo: Eric Duvet/MetalTalk

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