Chris Shiflett at The Grand Social on March 30th , 2019

There’s a special energy to this night and everybody knows it, including Leila Jane. The singer-songwriter with roots in Donegal is opening the night following a sold-out performance the previous night in The Vintage Room at The Workman’s. Usually making avail of the benefits of a full backing band, Leila Jane is alone on a stage full of guitar amps, drums and mic stands. Her fragile, yet compelling voice is only accompanied by guitar tonight.

Songs such as Look So Sweet (the B-side to her new single, Little Lady Blues), I Hope You’ll Be Wanting To See Me Again and I Got Feeling are strong compositions and Leila Jane performs them with passion and attention to detail. She won some hearts tonight for sure – a few voices, in fact, even muster the courage to risk delaying the main event and ask for an encore. No risks are taken tonight, though.

Chris Shiflett’s European tour starts in Dublin this very night and every single soul helping to make the gig a sold-out performance is anxious. Having the top name on the bill does not protect you from failure, especially when the specter of another huge name in music looms large.

Some ticket holders are in the know, lyrics memorized, but most of the assembled crowd are Foo Fighters fans looking for a quick fix ahead of their August gig and are unsure what they’ll get for their money. There’s even a rumor that Dave Grohl is in town and may pop in for a song or two. That would be nice, but it does not happen.

What unfolds is a jolly-good country’n’roll set from song one. The first few numbers are bouncy and infectious, an electric cascade of modern country music that feels authentic.

Slowly but surely things become personal. Chris introduces This Ol’ World by reminding the audience about America’s love/hate relationship with its 45th President (but wisely refrains from commenting on the current state of Brexit), before sharing the story of his son’s first romantic relationship in the preamble for Welcome To Your First Heartache.

Liar’s Word provides the perfect opportunity for the audience to join in and sing the chorus. There’s a special energy to this night, an energy that comes from well-crafted songs performed with an open heart. The show’s almost over but it feels as if it just started. By now nobody doubts they’ve paid to see a talented songwriter & performer in his own right, not just that guitarist cashing in on being second fiddle in a famous band.

Throughout the show, the musicianship is beyond reproach. The band is in a good place and Chris leads them with patience and skill through the well-crafted setlist. Weirdly enough, there’s no obvious star in this band and that’s one of the reasons it all works so well because It’s all about the songs.

Shiflett & Co wisely decide to avoid the rock n roll cliché of the fake encore, instead opting to cover The Rolling Stones’s Star Star from ‘Goats Head Soup’ and finish with a brace of original material The One You Go Home To and West Coast Town – before heading to the merchandise

As far as opening nights of an European tour are concerned, you simply can’t ask or want for more than tonight. You shouldn’t miss this if the party comes to your town.