Being a member of the biggest touring rock band on the planet is a great job if you can get it, but I’m sure it drags at times and maybe certain band members yearn for small sweaty clubs, actually making eye contact up close with an audience and maybe even having to fight for that applause each night.

Chris Shiflett has played guitar in the Foo Fighters for over 20 years now, but he has other things on the go too. Not only has he banged out a bunch of records with Me First & The Gimme Gimmes, but he also has a couple of bad-ass solo albums exploring his country/americana roots.

Riding on stonking new single ‘Black Top White Lines’ from his upcoming 3rd long player, Chris and his band head out on a six date UK tour of intimate venues, stopping off at my favourite venue the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds.

There is nothing better than discovering a great new band live when you are least expecting it, and I rarely research support bands before a gig for that very reason. Dea Matrona are a 3-piece band from Northern Ireland led by Mollie McGinn and Orlaith Forsythe and they have the biggest smiles on their faces tonight.

I guess you could categorise their sound as classic rock with pop leanings. The pair both play guitar and bass, switching instruments between songs, their vocal harmonies are spot on, and the energetic duo pull all the cool rock poses they learnt in their bedrooms watching Zep and Fleetwood Mac videos.

The songs are good too, ‘Stamp On It’ is very commercial, instant with a pumping bass groove, the sultry vocals delivered with voices that sound way beyond their years. The acoustic led ‘Glory Glory (I Am Free)’ is simply stunning. A definite Fleetwood Mac/The Pierces feel that gets everyone’s attention in the room, and I swear you could hear a pin drop for the entirety.

There’s a cheeky Irish charm to the duo, years of hard graft busking the streets of Dublin have paid off and of course playing to a sold-out crowd surely helps, but Dea Matrona were very impressive tonight. Touring the UK through May they are surely ones to watch in 2023.

It’s a sold-out show tonight and there are a lot of Foo Fighters shirts and tattoos on display, but anyone who has come expecting a Foo Fighters song or two will be disappointed. This band isn’t about Chris Shiflett’s day job, this is honky-tonk, low-down countrified americana, best played in bars and clubs and its perfect, utterly perfect.

“I had a feeling this was gonna be a good one” remarks Chris as he tunes up after delivering a salvo of high energy, countrified rock n’ roll. Yes, there is something about this venue that brings out the best in any artist, and tonight is a great example.

Chris, bassist Fox Fagan and drummer Robert Jolly are tight as a duck’s ass and the songs are short, sharp and bloody good. Opening one-two ‘Sticks & Stones’ and ‘Liar’s Word’ sound awesome. The sound is magnificent, the telecaster tone to die for and the crackling energy is classic of the Brudenell.

The 90-minute set covers Chris’ two solo albums ‘Hard Lessons’ and ‘West Coast Town’, new tracks from his unreleased 3rd album and a couple of choice covers thrown in for good measure.

Free of the confines of the Foo’s stadium juggernaut, Chris is chatty, funny and engaging between songs. He tells us of his newfound love of Greggs chicken bakes and his hunt today in Leeds for football shorts while winding up Leeds fans (he is an avid Arsenal fan). It all adds to the feeling of camaraderie the band exudes, but tonight is really all about the songs.

Set highlights for me go to recent singles ‘Black Top White Lines’ and the emphatic ‘Long Long Year’, the yearning country vibes of ‘Blow Out The Candles’ and ‘Room 102’ both sounding like they are lifted straight from the Smokey & The Bandit soundtrack.

There are a few newbies I don’t recall the titles of, but the reggae-tinged ‘Damage Control’ was a standout for sure, Chris even encouraging the audience to film and upload it to socials so they could steal footage to make a video for the next single.

A 3-song encore includeded Mearl Haggard’s ‘Working Man Blues’ and a mighty fine cover of Hank Williams Jnr’s ‘Family Tradition’ with added audience participation,  glorious set closer ‘West Coast Town’ wraps things up nicely.

The fact that this highly enjoyable 21 song set was over in what seemed like a flash is testament to the songs and the delivery of the band tonight. High energy, countrified rock n’ roll has never felt so good.

If this band travels your way, do not miss em! Chris Shiflett and his band just set the marker for gig of the year, who has the minerals to take up the challenge?

Author: Ben Hughes