Huge in the States, Chris Daughtry and his eponymous band finally seem to be on the verge of a big UK breakthrough. This Shepherds Bush Empire show was apparently his biggest UK solo show to date, but sold out within days with a second date added.
For someone whose American Idol background belies a grounding in modern American rock, and whose main UK exposure has been supporting Nickelback, it was curious that a largely female Empire crowd was some way removed from a typical rock audience.
There was a well matched support in young band Charming Liars, who are from the UK but have spent most of the last few years in the States including on some high profile tours. This showed in their stage craft – even successfully getting a singalong going to ‘The Desperation’ and not only the swagger but annoying mid-Atlantic twang of hyper confident blond singer Charlie Cosser.
Their sound has the big spacious feel of early eighties acts like early U2, Simple Minds and Billy Idol, but openers ‘Break Away’ and ‘My Kind of Craz’y were instantly catchy and although in a short 30 minute set the likes of ‘New Destroyer’s did not always hit the mark, with their self-belief and song writing ability a promising future lies ahead.
I was nervous to what extent I would enjoy Chris Daughtry’s show having been gravely disappointed in the overt pop production of his latest album ‘Baptized’, but songs like the title track, which opened the show, and ‘Battleships’ were marginally more palatable delivered by a live band.
However the massive hooks and choruses of ‘Feels Like Tonight’ and ‘Crawling Back to You’ and ‘No Surprise’, helped by a superb sound, was manna for heaven for someone like me who loves the more commercial side of the post-grunge generation like Nickelback, Three Doors Down and Shinedown.
Shaven headed and dressed in grey T-shirt denim jacket, Chris could pass for the guy shooting pool in a North Carolina bar. He radiates a Southern everyman charm and dealt in a very easy manner with interventions from the audience.
Like Bon Jovi, the focus is very much on the eponymous frontman, but his five piece band were well drilled, if a tad anonymous other than hyperactive stripy-topped drummer Robin Diaz.
There was a great moment during ‘Over You’ when the crowd took over the lyrics early on in word perfect manner and it felt as if there were far more than 2000 present.
In a change of pace, ‘Broken Arrows’ and ‘Life After You’ were delivered stripped back with backing only from keyboardist Elvio Fernandez, whose backing vocals were also a key part of the sound throughout. While he can come over as melodramatic, as with most of the Cowell generation of singers, these showcased the exceptional clarity and range of Chris’ voice.
However the night was not without its downsides – the industrial lite beats of ‘Hater’ and a cover of ‘In The Air Tonight. In fairness the latter was pulled off supremely but insufficiently to overcome my prejudices against Phil Collins.
A rocking, anthemic ‘It’s Not Over’ restored the momentum, Chris diving into a crowd of admirers at the front, while the best example of his controversial new direction was the Train-like ‘Waiting For Superman’, simply a gorgeously delivered song with a great keyboard hook, before mid-tempo anthems in ‘Home’ and ‘September’ closed the main set.
For encores, another sway along in ‘What About Now’ totally deleted the Bon Jovi song of the same name, while ‘Long Live Rock n Roll’ finally got people in the balconies to their feet, although I was disappointed, given the subject matter, that live it was barely any more guitar heavy than the studio version.
This was my first live experience of Daughtry but definitely not the last. It was a treat to witness what was effectively a stadium show at a mid-sized theatre. I just hope his future direction stays on the right side of the rock/pop divide.
Review by Andy Nathan
Photos by Iain Scott
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