Chris Shiflett


Walking into the Night and Day, a venue I’ve sat in with my old man having a last drink after a session around the Northern Quarter, I am completely surprised to see the lead guitarist of arguably the biggest rock band on the planet stood at the merch stand, taking pictures with fans. Of course, I joined the line… to meet a hero. Someone l first saw at Wembley Stadium when I was just eleven and have had a Foo Fighters album cover tattooed on my wrist since I was eighteen.

Now I’m not going to go on about Foo Fighters, as much as I could, just let me just give you one quick fact. The only reason Dave Grohl chose Chris Shiflett after a long process of auditions was because he was the only guitarist that came to the audition that didn’t just stand and play the songs perfectly, but he sang. That’s why he got the job opportunity of a life time.

Even before Chris comes on stage, it’s like I’m in California already, amidst beer drinking rock n roll fans all just happy to be here. Yet I’m also surrounded by complete anticipation – we know he’s not going to play anything from the band we know he’s famous from, we’re about to witness a completely different side to this this guy we only really know as a guitarist.

Walking on stage he’s greeted like he would be on Glastonbury’s Sunday night headline slot; then the band play, the atmosphere changes. I had given his solo work a listen over the week, as I should as a journalist, and I’m basically almost arrogantly knowing what the crowd’s response will be before he’s even finished his first song. The response as expected is people turning to each other and more or less saying, “This doesn’t rock like Foo Fighters mate”. This is a Californian country band we’re watching play their first gig in Manchester. No, we’re not moshing at a festival or stadium.

I’d say at least seventy five percent of the crowd I’m stood in don’t know a single song of the set we’re all stood watching, it’s almost like we’re at an album listening press review. We’re all just stood back and letting our self go on a mystical ride into Californian country music.

The first song I instantly recognise is ‘Welcome to Your First Heartbreak’; before playing it, Chris tells a family tale of how he’d written the track for his fifteen-year-old son, when he’d first brought a girlfriend over and wrote the song in anticipation of him getting his little getting heart broken. Although to his surprise it wasn’t broken and his wife jokingly told him, “well that was a waste of time”, but it didn’t stop him releasing the track as the first single to his upcoming second album release in June.

Next, I hear ‘Still Drunk’ from his first solo album, a track with lyrics you would just expect from a country band, cliche to the point of cheesiness, yet in my opinion the majority of lyrics written these days usually are.

The set is filled with a lot of storytelling. Interestingly, not once did he mention the Foo Fighters, or that he had played in front of 60,000 people at the Etihad Stadium just a couple of miles away from where we are stood, not even a year ago. We’re listening to tales about how his poor tour manager had his Mac Book stolen while the band was loading in, how he remembers that today was laundry day, how he remembers what it’s like to be in a band touring around in a van like he did twenty years ago in his teenage years before he joined a band that could afford a bus.

It is almost like he’s just wanting to relive those years, as a lot of musicians do in super famous bands; they get bored of the sold-out stadiums and headline slots every two or three years at the same festivals. It’s understandable yet almost hard for most people to comprehend, I suppose.

As a mainly rock journalist I’m stood worried about what I am going to write about, it’s just not music I’d personally ever give the time of day to usually, I’m here because of the name Chris Shiflett. That’s where beauty of the evening really sets in, everyone’s enjoying something different to what they expected, we’re even laughing that he’s just admitted that he’s just ended a song half way through because he completely forgot it, much to his band’s disapproval. We’ve forgotten what he’s famous for, we’re all watching a band in the making, just one album in and ready to release their second.

We do though get to see what we really deep down want to see, a mind blowing improvised two- or three-minute jam, we see Shiflett do what he’s famous for, playing a good old-fashioned guitar solo. Finishing the set with a track off his first album West Coast Town, he once again explains that it is a song written about his teenage years chasing girls. The evening comes to an end, no encore, just a simple, “Thanks for coming down guys”, wonderfully odd considering he’s used to his sets ending with a firework display and three minutes of cymbal crashing.

This leads me to the question as I’m leaving the venue. I wonder if he’s more excited this summer about his solo album being released or the fact that he’s headlining Leeds and Reading festival with Foo Fighters? I doubt he’d ever answer that question but personally I think I know the answer.

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