Arriving at the Night and Day Cafe in Manchester to a queue stretching out into the street is what I expected, having spent over 6 hours in a queue less than a year ago to see Chris Shiflett in the Foo Fighters in the huge Etihad stadium just a few miles away.
I hadn’t quite expected Chris Shiflett himself to be stood at the merch stand, selling T-shirts and taking pictures with fans as though he didn’t even realise everyone there saw him as a huge rockstar.
The crowd was warm and eager towards Mike West, the opening act for the night. With the tag line ‘Not country enough, not blues enough, not folk enough, too heavy’ he was a great warm up for the crowd before Shiflett. Blue licks with heavy rock vocals got us ready for the country tunes about to come while keeping us all comfortable with familiar rock inspiration. A technical issue left West finishing a song fully acoustically, screaming at the crowd while his guitar was barely audible in the way that makes you say ‘wow, what a musician’. Truly brilliant and someone to keep our eyes on.
Onto the main act of the night, Shiflett and his band burst onto the stage to the kind of crowd reaction you might expect at Glastonbury. It seemed to take a while before people in the crowd recognised his songs, the first I recognised myself being ‘Sticks and Stones’ from his previous album ‘West Coast Town’. For many people, the gig was clearly a chance to get close to a member of the Foo Fighter’s, but those who knew his songs well bought up the energy with dancing and singing a long.
Shiflett bounced off the audience well, reminiscing on his time on tour with No Use For A Name in the early 90’s and talking to a member of crew off stage who has been with him since that time. For many musicians, bringing up the topics of Trump and Brexit before a song may not work in their favour, however for a song like ‘This Ol’ World’ it just makes you all the more glad to have a song like that to dance to and forget about the news for a bit.
A few other songs from his new album, to be released this coming June, were played on the night. ‘Welcome To Your First Heartbreak’ had only been released a few weeks before the gig but already a large number of the audience knew the words, myself included.
The story along with the song, of writing it for his son following him getting his first girlfriend only to find out from his wife they’d already broken up and he was fine, had the crowd in peals of laughter. The so far unreleased ‘Fool’s Gold’ had the crowd in silence, listening closely as the band played absolutely perfectly.
A psychedelic jam between the band lasting several minutes also played a part in the gig, smoke floating across the stage as the lights changed colour, Shiflett doing what he does best and effortlessly playing incredible solos, showing the true talent and connection the band have until Shiflett admits he had just accidentally ended a song early having forgotten part of it. Good old Shifty.
The band left the stage with a quick thank you to the audience from Shiflett, no encore, fireworks or anything else you may expect Shiflett is used to finishing gigs with in his other projects. Although I’m sure many of the audience was there for the novelty of a ‘Foo Fighter’ in a small venue and weren’t expecting a country rock gig I don’t think anyone was disappointed, a great band playing good songs to an engaged audience will always be an enjoyable night whether its what you’d usually listen to or not, and Shiflett and his band definitely provided that.