Live review, photos: Chickenfoot

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Chickenfoot w/ Davy Knowles & Back Door Slam

Uptown Amphitheatre

Aug. 27, 2009

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The Deal: Supergroup Chickenfoot shreds Uptown Amphitheatre with the help of Davy Knowles and a special guest.

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The Good: I told a handful of people to make sure they were there to check out Davy Knowles & Back Door Slam — the 22-year-old blues guitarist — and all got in touch to tell me he exceeded expectations. In fact, it appeared to be that way for most in attendance as half-way through the band's set, he started to get standing ovations at the end of each song and a long ovation at the end of his show. Rarely have I ever seen an unfamiliar band do so well in an opening slot, but this guy's the real deal and full of talent. His guitar work finds the fine line balancing between what guides a song along and being too flashy. As a friend put it, 22-year-old guitar players should not have that much wisdom when it comes to songwriting.

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Knowles also got a surprise three songs into his set — he looked up to see Chickenfoot/Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith standing next to him. Before the shock could set in, Smith started playing the guitar that was around Knowles' neck — and did a decent job at it, too. You could tell the young guitarist was in shock for the rest of the song as he continually shook his head and smiled.

Chickenfoot — Sammy Hagar, Smith, Joe Satriani and Michael Anthony — walked out on stage with the dial turned to 11 — energy, talent and everything in between. The band appeared to have an absolute blast as they tore through just about every song on their self-titled debut with a lot more energy and volume than the studio effort.

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Hagar, for a man who is 62 years old, looked like he was in his 40s and sounded like he was in his 30s. Having caught the last tour he did with Van Halen a handful of years ago, I thought Hagar sounded much better at this show.

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I've always known that Smith is a fantastic drummer, but you tend to forget as he's been stuck behind years of slow and sappy Chili Peppers songs. With Chickenfoot, the Freaky Styley side of Smith came out in full force. He may have been on a standard drum kit (plus one extra floor tom), but the guy is beyond jaw-dropping to watch. As for throwing drum sticks into the crowd, Smith, at one point, looked like Cheap Trick's Rick Nielson and threw a stick out after just about every snare hit.

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Much like Smith on the drums, Satriani makes virtuosity look easy. Satriani has made a career out of tearing through instrumental tracks, but when he has a band backing him, his bounds are just as limitless. Sure, the cliches were flying around as he played guitar with his teeth, made outrageous faces and pushed the limits of "guitar-sterbation" during solos, but the guy's an amazing talent that can do just about anything with six strings.

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I'll admit, I'm one of the people that has always said — Anthony isn't that great of a bass player. He plays the same thumping rhythm in every song and never had to do much in Van Halen but worry about the harmonies. Well, I take it back. For the most part, he did focus on harmonies and the rhythm, but there were brief moments where he could let loose and I was impressed. He made his way around the stage and it looked like he and Hagar haven't spent a day apart.

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The band found plenty of time to tease a few classics during their set — playing the rhythm of Hendrix's "Manic Depression," Smith playing the drums for "Wipeout," Hagar singing James Brown's "I Feel Good" while Smith played along. For the most part, the band's setlist came from the new album, aside from one song, "Going Down," which Hagar said wasn't released, but "you can find it somewhere."

The band's encore started with a brief guitar solo by Hagar, followed by Charlotte resident and Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford walking out to play with the band. As they tore into the 1974 Montrose (Hagar's early band) song "Bad Motor Scooter," Whitford tore into a solo. As he started to wind it up, Satriani urged the black-beret wearing Hall of Famer to keep on going. All involved had huge smiles on their faces as they spun the end of the track into a brief cover of The Who's "My Generation." At the end of the song, Smith knocked over every piece of his drum kit before hurling a drink into the audience and lining up for bows.

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The Bad: Let's face it. This isn't rocket science. Musicians have been making this music since the 1980s and before — over-the-top flashy guitar (Satriani was "raising his goblet of rock" all night long, if you've seen School of Rock) in a high-energy rock performance. If it's not your thing, you'd probably hate it.

The Verdict: First off, Knowles is going to quickly make a name for himself and play bigger and bigger venues. He's an incredible talent that you need to keep an eye on. After all, someone has to fill Clapton's shoes in the future and this kid's the one who can do it. As for Chickenfoot, they were better live than on the album — much more intensity, energy and smiles all around. You can tell these guys have been in the business for a long time, have nothing to prove and are simply out to have fun. An entertaining show that gave them the ability to express their talents freely — all night long.

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Chickenfoot setlist

Avenida Revolution

Sexy Little Thing

Soap on a Rope

Runnin' Out

Down the Drain

I Feel Good (tease)

Going Down

Oh Yeah!

Learning to Fall

Get It Up >

Immigrant Song

Wipeout (tease)

Turnin' Left >

Manic Depression (tease)

The End (tease)

Future in the Past

Encore

Bad Motor Scooter (w/ Brad Whitford)

> My Generation (w/ Whitford)

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