What better way to spend a sweaty Tuesday night than by going to a legendary venue to see a pretty legendary musician. This is what I chose to do yesterday. An incredible privilege and rare opportunity to catch Chris Shiflett live at The 100 Club, it’s certainly a step away from the usual frenzied vigour and thrashing energy of the numerous, arena-sized, Foo Fighters gigs I’ve been to over the years.
Over in the UK to promote his new, solo album West Coast Town, Shiflett explains the choice of venue, upon meeting this morning – “For me, coming over to the UK, I just wanted to play in the smallest room possible. Just me and an acoustic guitar down the pub with your mates…”. And, on the decision to tour completely solo, he expands, “… it’s interesting playing acoustic shows… I do normally play with a full band, but as that’s so expensive, I couldn’t really do it overseas. Though the songs were written just me on an acoustic guitar, that’s not really how they’re meant to be played.”
Whether or not this is how they’re meant to be played, however, each of Shiflett’s solo offerings at this unusually intimate gig is pretty fantastic, showcasing his ability not only as a skilled guitarist, but as a charming front man. Kicking things off with a flawless cover of Buck Owens’ ‘I’ve Got A Tiger By The Tail’, Shiflett continues to treat us to some of the tracks from his new album; and so begins a set of buoyant, charisma-filled honky tonk gems.
Following the swooning energy of album opener ‘Sticks And Stones’, Shiflett apologises for being majorly jetlagged, having only arrived earlier this evening, and describes how this is in fact his second ‘show’ of the day (turns out a casual onlooker outside his hotel window inadvertently spotted him in his ‘birthday suit’ earlier…).
Received by whoops and cheers from the intimate crowd, Shiflett continues the set with ‘Girl’s Already Gone’ and – my personal favourite from the new album – the utterly infectious, twang-filled, van tour-inspired ‘Goodnight Little Rock’.
Introducing his next offering, Shiflett shares more of his affable charm with us, and explains how his wife wasn’t too happy when discovering the lyrics of this track, ‘Room 102’ – a song clearly not about her, and describing activities she was not aware of him doing. However, on discussing his lyrical inspiration further, he explains – “I tend to write a lot about a certain period of my life. My life now is really nice – I have a wife and kids, and I’m not super drawn to write about it because I don’t even know how I would… So, I tend to write about a time in my life that was maybe a little more chaotic.” Aside from the talk of girls and hotel rooms in ‘Room 102’, other activities are mentioned on the album that perhaps his wife, and Shiflett himself, would not be so fond of these days: “… I didn’t realise how many times I referenced smoking, I don’t even smoke! I’ve never been much of a serious smoker… But, when I listened back to the record, I realised I had referenced smoking A LOT!”
This all adds to the rich lyrical storytelling that Shiflett has shown himself so skilled in creating with this latest album. Oozing truly tantalising guitar licks and the allure of his gravelly vocals, he tells tales of days gone by, both fictional and autobiographical. Perhaps the best example of this being title track ‘West Coast Town’; the song “… lyrically most close to my heart…”, reflecting on his childhood growing up in Santa Barbara, California. “I just really wanted to write a song about my home town… The older I get, the more love I have for where I come from…”
Although, throughout the set, Shiflett reflects on the difficulty to wow us with guitar solos when it’s just him on stage, he seems to do a pretty great job of putting on a blisteringly entertaining and musically rich show on his own. However, he is joined for the last couple of songs of the night by Foo Fighters’ keyboardist Rami Jaffee. And then, in a whirlwind of never-before-seen accordion solos, joyous honky-tonk refrains and playful banter, the set comes to an end, all too soon.
But what a set it was. Shiflett has well and truly made his mark as the perfect solo artist. Having wowed the intimate crowd with a set full of charming repartee, buoyant energy and, most of all, simply fantastic music, he’s set the bar extremely high for the night’s headliner Nic Cester. For those (like me) who’ve only ever seen Chris Shiflett as a lead guitarist alongside the full might of Dave Grohl, it’s a real treat to see him in this role of delightfully chatty, wonderfully witty and truly engaging front man.
HUGE thanks to Chris Shiflett for such a superb night yesterday, and for answering our questions this morning. It’s not true what they say, you really should meet your heroes…