Home Gigs Gig Review : Chris Shiflett @ Thekla Bristol, 26th March 2023

Gig Review : Chris Shiflett @ Thekla Bristol, 26th March 2023

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Bristol’s Thekla is different from your usual music venues. It’s not a little club in some downtown location, squeezed between coffee shops and a set of flats. Instead, Thekla is a former cargo ship safely docked in the Mud Dock area of Bristol’s Floating Harbour, now having its second career as an independent music venue.

Last Sunday, the 400-capacity venue hosted the one and only punk rock veteran, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Americana singer and songwriter, and one of the best lead guitarists – Mr. Chris Shiflett.

Chris Shiflett, known worldwide as Foo Fighters’ axeman, played one of his intimate, sold-out UK and Ireland Tour shows in the iconic venue.

The gig was not Chris’ first affair with solo touring UK. The Santa Barbara native previously toured the UK in 2017, played two sold-out shows in London (The 100 Club and The Water Rats), and in 2019, the lucky fans in Bristols’ Fleece witnessed one of his solo gigs. Chris’ solo performances are a real treat for me, so no matter how far I have to travel, if Chris is in the UK, it calls for a road trip!

The first act on the night was the Northern-Ireland female duo Dea Matrona. I have to admit; I was oblivious to the existence of Dea Matrona before I saw them that night. And after their gig left me in awe, I scratched my head; how could I have never heard of them before? Dea Matrona is the real deal right there.

Dea Matrona @ Thekla, Bristol 2023

Two young, charismatic, talented ladies playing a mixture of heavily influenced classic rock tunes, effortlessly changing the instruments, is a definition of a real treat in my books. I enjoyed their show and decided to do my homework after the gig.

One of the songs that stuck with me like an earworm was written during a road trip Glory, Glory (I Am Free).

As much as I enjoyed the support act, Chris Shiflett was the real reason for my little road trip to Bristol. It was his 3rd UK solo tour I was lucky to witness. Chris, joined on stage by Fox Fagan (bass) and Robert Jolly (drums), starts the set strong with catchy Stink & Stones from West Coast Town Album, followed by Liar’s Word (Hard Lessons) and back to West Coast Town’s – The Girl’s Already Gone. And this is how the night will flow – a mixture of fans’ favorites from his two last solo records and a few new songs in anticipation of an upcoming album.

Chris Shiflett @ Thekla, Bristol 2023

The band plays tune after tune, and I wonder if the strange COVID times we all went through took away the chatty, funny guy I remember from previous tours. Luckily he is still there. After just a few songs, Chris treats fans to some of his finest storytelling. Those small, intimate shows are a rare opportunity for artist-audience interaction on a level the huge stadium shows would never allow.

Chris Shiflett & Fox Fagan @ Thekla, Bristol 2023

You probably saw the GREGGS trending story if you follow Chris on Instagram. He decided to get a snack in a popular chain and posted the video. It ended up with British fans declaring him now a Brit and providing him with random GREGGS-related gifts.

Robert Jolly @ Thekla, Bristol 2023

The musician already owns GREGGS socks and a hoodie, and during the set in Bristol, one of the fans gifted him a GREGGS woolly beanie. The new wardrobe addition was immediately tried on stage, cheering up gathered fans.

The night brings more Americana vibes and stories. Thought You’d Never Leave, Blow Out The Candles, Goodnight Little Rock; the audience knows the catalog well, sings every song, and swings in the rhythm, almost like the boat left the Bristol marina and went sailing. But it’s not the boat moving; it’s the crowd having one of the best nights ever.

Chris Shiflett @ Thekla, Bristol 2023

The new single Black Top White Lines proves to be already very popular, with the crowd singing every line of the new song. It is essential Shiflett: funny, catchy, bouncy, and infectious.

As the set unveils, Chris treats fans with more personal stories and new songs mixed with the tracks from the previous two albums. Long, Long Year is another new tune the audience already knows the lyrics.

Chris Shiflett & Dea Matrona @ Thekla, Bristol 2023

The spirits are up as Chris sails through the setlist, closing the first part of the gig with another new song – Damage Control.

The honky-tonk guitarist invites the audience to become a part of the music video and encourages fans to dance, record the performance and submit the clips directly to him. Judging by the number of hands raised, there is a good chance we will see some parts of his Bristol appearance in that upcoming video.

Among loud cheers and calls to “Rock The Boat,” Chris returns for an encore. He is joined on stage by the supporting band – Dea Matrona for an energetic cover of Rolling Stones, Dead Flowers. Working Man Blues (Merle Haggard cover), Family Tradition (Hank Williams Jr cover), and West Coast Town are closing Sunday night at Thekla.

Chris Shiflett & Dea Matrona @ Thekla, Bristol 2023

The big smiles on strangers’ faces signify a night to remember. And I can only hope that the smile on Chris’s face means he will be back soon. After all, Bristol has more to remember than the day daylight savings change happened for the second time in the same year.

Words and photography, Edyta Krzesak for MPM

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