Just before Foo Fighters kick off their summer European Tour, the band's axeman, Chris Shiflett, spent two days playing tiny London venues and promoting his third solo album - West Coast Town.
West Coast Town brings a taste of American summer; honky-tonk melodies and superb storytelling, a perfect mixture for one of the hottest nights in the city.
As a solo artist Chris has been absent from London scene for a few years, so his choice of the smallest possible venues didn't meet with the fans demand. The 200 capacity Water Rats show sold out in just a few days.
The evening opened with Sam Palladio, who is known mainly for playing Gunnar Scott in the TV series Nashville and currently touring with Nashville in Concert. Sam's humour quickly builds a great rapport with the audience, and although I'm not a fan of any TV series, after his set I am keen to check it out.
Shiflett started his performance with a cover of the timeless I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail by Buck Owens. As if the temperature wasn't already piping hot, somehow it got even hotter with Chris's blistering performance.
Chris is mainly known as a great lead guitarist but he is also a brilliant storyteller and these solo shows are a rare opportunity to showcase his ability to perform as a frontman. He connected with the audience and treated the gathered crowd to a well-balanced mixture of humour, music and personal stories.
Mrs America brought some politics to the stage. It transpires that the tune was written about Hilary Clinton who, Chris thought, would win the USA presidential election. In the end, Hilary was beaten at the polls and the American people got the most extraordinary president America has ever seen. Chris believes that this song makes, even more, sense given the result.
With only his acoustic guitar, Shifty did not disappoint and still delivered great riffs and solos. Cherry heats up the already sweaty room with an enthusiasm that is contagious. The Santa Barbara native doesn't really care about being politically correct and his tongue-in-cheek comment of “Clap you Motherfuckers that was a guitar solo” brought forth a gale of laughter.
I love the personal stories Chris tells regarding his songs. Tonight's Not Over was one of the tracks he introduced to his kids only to find them shocked and asking “does daddy really do that?" Living the rock'n'roll lifestyle in his youth doesn't always go hand in hand with being a responsible father.
As with the show the previous night, Chris had another treat in store for his fans. He joined forces with Sam Palladino and promised to deliver another cover. A shout out from the crowd of “Play Surfing California!" caused some amusement amongst the concert goers. After all, there were more laughs at Chris's quick response that it would make things much easier if the song requests could be filed prior to the gig so they could actually learn the song! So no, it wasn't The Beach Boys standard that the duo covered but Waylon Jennings’ Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way.
With the last notes of the title track, West Coast Town fading from the speakers the honky-tonk Americana journey was over. However this wasn't something his cheering audience was ready to accept, and to huge applause, Chris returned to the stage for his encore. He honestly admitted that he didn't think of preparing any extra songs, but the guitar man didn't disappoint the crowd as he launched into another cover. The Merie Haggard classic Swinging Doors closed one of the hottest night I ever witnessed in London, leaving the crowd sweaty but very satisfied. London may not have the biggest honky-tonk fan base but from the reception tonight it would certainly appreciate more of Chris Shiflet's live solo work.
Chris Shiflett w/ Sam Palladio, Water Rats, London, 14th June 2017
Review and photography by Edyta K