Chris McKay & The Critical Darlings
August 21, 2009
(Hi, it's me, your regular Concert Shots reviewer but (um, this is a little strange as) for this show, I'm not only your King's X reviewer and photographer, but I was the opening act as well! So, obviously, I can't comment on my band's set without a bit of bias, so I'll turn you over to our friend Mary for that part of the review. We'll let her be biased! Mary does most of the work on the Critical Darlings' site these days. You can check out more of that here. And when Mary's review of our set (along with Amanda McKay's pictures) is done, I'll pick up with my King's X content. Cool?)
Critical Darlings review by Mary Gadd (To see the full review and more pics, click here):
"King's X fans are, for the most part, musicians and you could tell by looking at the crowd who were mostly men with either shaved heads or ponytails. I'm awful at estimating numbers, but in addition to the Darlings' fans, a good number of King's X fans showed up early enough to see the boys open up the evening at 8:30. Tonight, The Darlings started with a great rock song, "Until The Road Ends". You could tell the crowd suddenly became more interested as the front of the stage filled in and camera flashes started going off all around. By the third song, "Waiting For The Siren", this rock crowd was hooked. It was obvious by the massive head-bobbing during this Critical Darlings' "disco song". (Rock fans digging a disco song? I thought “Disco Sucks!”? This crowd obviously didn't think so… at least not the way the Darlings play it!)
The real kick in the face was, of course, "Phony". While Chris's guitar solo always brings down the house, it really made an impression on this crowd. You had guys in the front row bowing to him and his guitar and I even saw a couple of guys playing air guitar. That was pretty amusing, but, in retrospect, I think it's a compliment and really a testament to how much ROCK the band was throwing at us.
It was also during "Phony" that Josh's harmonies were really put on display. They sounded great and were spot-on. It was around this point that Chris called Josh out. It went something like this: Chris starts talking about how their guitarist had left the band not too long ago and that meant they all had to step-up their game and quickly reorganize as a trio. He went on to explain how this was especially true for Josh (Cue bright spotlight on Josh, who had learned all of the harmonies for this show in about a week).
The crowd went crazy with applause, hands in the air, yelling “No way!” and “Rock on!” It was a great moment of reinforcement for the whole band and they looked overjoyed. I even saw a smile on Frank's face!! (A rarity while he's onstage, as he seems to go into his own world of bass playing and awesome dancing. I always try to watch to see if there's a pattern to his swagger and sway and I haven't found one yet, but I will… oh yes, I will figure out Frank's sweet moves!) "
(Critical Darlings review by Mary Gadd, Critical Darlings photos by Amanda McKay)
Chris McKay & The Critical Darlings Set List For August 21, 2009 in Atlanta:
1. Until The Road Ends
2. Sadder Day
3. Waiting For The Siren
4. Scared Of Myself
5. I Won't Stand Still
7. Towel Cape Song
The Critical Darlings invite you to listen to their current album Satisfactionista right here, right now! Just hit play and the whole album will play (or just scan through and see which ones you want to hear).
(I still can't believe we opened for King's X. It's pretty darn cool. And I'm especially thankful to Dug Pinnick for the nice little pep talk at soundcheck. It's just what was needed. Anyway, where would I usually be at around this point...oh yeah...)
And now to my review of this evening's headliners!
By the time King's X took the stage at a little after 10 p.m., the sold-out crowd was ready. These fans were part of the cult. They knew what to expect and they know there's nowhere else to get this if this is what you want.
With the exception of the opening song, “Groove Machine”, King's X veered away from their mid-period altogether. They instead chose to focus on their first few years and the most recent material. With 15 albums to choose from (and more than 20 years), they still managed a strong overview.
My one (minor) complaint about the performance was that the band was tuned so low (Was that low string a “C”?) that some of the dynamics and textures were lost in a bit of sludge. This was especially evident on songs like “Pleiades” and “It's Love” where Ty Tabor's voice didn't sound as clear and natural as it should.
The huskiness in Dug Pinnick's voice worked better (and maybe even) with the sludge during the majority of the show. “Alright”, “Dogman”, “Go Tell Somebody” and “Looking For Love” were especially powerful. The crowd didn't just sing along, they roared back the lyrics to “Pray”. The guitar geeks threw devil-horns and looked knowingly at each other with the self-referential nods that only a fellow guitar geek would understand.
This was definitely an interactive audience. Whether it was air-drumming the “nail-hammering” in “Lost In Germany” or yelling requests, these people were involved in the show and invested in every second.
Seeing just how into it everyone was, the band turned the mics toward the audience for the old favorite, “Goldilox”. Not only did the audience take up the challenge but, to my surprise, the crowd broke up into different sections and did all of the cross harmonies. It was damn impressive.
(Live videos courtesy of Chris and Clay at YouTube)
Drummer Jerry Gaskill was particularly notable tonight. His harmonies and drumming not only held the band together but he alternately smiled, grimaced, and put himself into the picture in a way that's not usual for other drummers. Jerry was definitely not the guy in the background, which was quite a welcome sight and sound.
I was surprised at how subdued guitarist Ty Tabor was for most of the night. The first time he really stepped up to show his phenomenal skill (in an obvious way) was for the solo in the set ending “Over My Head”. An extended solo from Tabor blissed out the crowd before Dug transformed into Reverend Pinnick. Granted, Dug acknowledged his lack of belief in God (“There's just too many of them”). Still, it was clear that Pinnick is from a church background as he delivered an impassioned and inspiring sermon about going out and doing what one loves.
The final encore was “We Were Born To Be Loved”. Again, there was much air-drumming and singing along. By the time the power-trio hit the super-syncopated, over the top ending, both Ty Tabor and Dug Pinnick were crowded on to the little riser in the center of the stage, laughing with the audience and seeming to whisper in-jokes into each others' ears. Jerry Gaskill punched back from behind the drum kit and despite the complexity of the rhythmic patterns, not a hair of a beat (or note) was missed. They looked like they were having a great time. So was the audience.
After the show, King's X didn't run off and hide. In fact, they went over to the merch area and signed autographs and posed for pictures with every single person that asked. Only when they were sure that everyone in attendance was satisfied did they get in their bus to head to the next town to do it all again.
That's how you build a cult. That's how you maintain a mostly under-the-radar career, come into a town and sell it out with the faithful. That's the story of King's X.
Chris McKay / concertshots.com
King's X Set List For Atlanta (August 21, 2009)
(King's X with Amanda and Chris McKay photo taken by Joshua Harrison)