||CADILLAC THREE GET THEIR BUZZ ON AT THE EMPIRE
Cadillac Three/Tyler Bryant And The Shakedown
Shepherd's Bush Empire, London
Sunday 6th November
Words: Ade Riches, Pictures Eric Duvet
Southern American country rock is developing an ever increasing audience in the UK enjoying the mix of southern rock, blues and hard rock. There is something genuinely compelling about the soulful patchwork of roots-infused melodies, muscular riffs and rambunctious, raw and real rock'n'roll.
So it came as no real surprise when I arrived to see a packed out Shepherd's Bush Empire populated by genuine fans of the genre that devotedly follow the stable of acts who are becoming an ever increasing presence on the UK rock scene with bands such as Whisky Myers, 1000 Horses, Blackberry Smoke and more.
Tyler Bryant blasted off tonight's proceedings, beginning with an almighty rally cry to the cause. "Are we ready to party?" he exclaimed. Then it was all engines burning into the funky refrain of 'Weak And Weepin'' that certainly woke up the Empire. Incredibly tight interplay between drums and backing allow Bryant to showcase his mastery of the blues guitar, sustaining the audience's reaction with improvisation that speeds up and slows down excitingly to build the opening number to a crescendo.
Their next number, 'Criminal Imagination', kicks off with a thunderous bass pattern sounding distinctly Grunge like in the realms of Alice In Chains meets Lenny Kravitz. There is great interplay between both guitarists with incredible dual lead patterns that excite the audience even further. Whilst keeping the music flowing the band thank the audience for showing their support for live music and take a quick moment to show their pride at being on tour with their fellow Tennessee countrymen.
Without hesitation the second song moves seamlessly into the next, 'House On Fire,' a raunchier number heard on the 'Sons Of Anarchy' soundtrack. Tyler Bryant's exhortation in his lyric is to set the house on fire tonight emphasised by rolls on drums. The band expertly builds the atmosphere, coaxing the audience to put their hands along to Bryant's solo improvisations which are truly impressive.
It is safe to say that the audience are loving every minute and it is understandable why The Shakedown have supported some of the biggest artists on the planet including ZZ Top and AC/DC in Europe earlier this year.
Tyler remarks that he has known Cadillac Three for eight/nine years and emphasises that the band have been in the UK more than they have been in their own country and then goes onto introduce the various band members.
'Downtown Tonight' is the next song that begins with Tyler making a real point of encouraging the audience to show him their hands and to make some music together. The band continue to keep warming the audience with their infectious energy and this adds extra excitement to the opening of the song. With a wonderful repetitive slide guitar refrain the song builds and builds and clearly shows some traces of the influence of elder bluesman in Bryant's playing. This allows for some sterling guitar work that at times is reminiscent of the finger picking style of Jeff Beck using echo and the theatre acoustics to good effect.
The band gradually increases the speed of the rhythm and show just how tight they are as a unit. Once again the audience are spellbound by their skill and artistry as a band.
Tyler explains that the next song they will play honours the influence of the founders of rock music he has grown up with and is a tribute to their love of the blues that led them to discover the music of the Cadillac Three. He asks everyone in the audience to "drink to the cause", explaining that nobody can touch this music and we are honouring it tonight. The band plays a great interpretation of 'Got My Mojo Working' that speeds up half way through the song and takes on all the characteristics of Deep Purple at full throttle. Tyler uses the octave effect pedal to create eerie open string pedal tones that contribute to the unique Stratocaster sound he has developed in which his phrasing gives way to lightning fast finger changes during his solo.
'Aftershock' has grungy tones reminiscent of Soundgarden in which Tyler moves effortlessly up and down the guitar fret board in semitones that finally give way to a frenzy of arpeggios. The song has a wonderful pounding bass line throughout that allows Tyler the space to move from a fast crescendo to end on a slow blues refrain.
Finally Tyler introduces the penultimate number and to play a bit of blues for us that he promises will take us to the Mississippi delta. 'Lipstick Wonder Woman' is a great song to end on with him showing his mastery of the slide guitar. He expertly gets the most out of the slide with a sound straight from the bayou, exemplifying Bryant's guitar and songwriting work with its stripped down sound.
The band play us out with their final song, 'House That Jack Built' which allows Graham to show off his guitar artistry and has everyone in the house totally enthralled as they end with rapturous audience response.
Following a short intermission the band that almost everyone has come to see The Cadillac Three, one of country's heaviest sounding bands, gently walk across the stage waving their hands in utmost appreciation as the applause erupts in the auditorium.
There is a funky backing track in the background that allows the band to take up their positions. They plug in and slip into the groove of the backing, allowing their playing to slowly build in volume until it becomes clear their opening number is 'Bury Me In My Boots'. Without hesitation the audience sing back the lyrics. This is a song that clearly has commercial appeal and is a great attempt at southern rock breaking into the mainstream with a huge sound created by the three of them.
'Slide' is the next song, and it's a little more akin to their rock'n'roll sound which allows Jaren the lead singer to strap on his lead guitar whilst Kelby on lap steel takes over main vocal duties. It's great to see the musical interplay between the various members who instinctively respond to one another musically on stage. Then it's straight into the next song, 'Soundtrack To A Six Pack', a gritty, high-energy, rock-driven party tune that really gets the audience buzzingand really encapsulates what this night is about, "kickin' on back with good friends, dancin' like they're on a mission".
The band provides a healthy dose of slide guitar and relentless percussion to really get the party started and 'Tennessee Mojo' has an infectious repetitive slide guitar refrain with a great sing along chorus that gets everyone bopping their heads and singing back the words in approval. This is a great number that you just want to keep on going. The instruments cut out and the room bellows to the sound of 'Back Down South Don't Ya Know', punctuated with impressive drumming. The band clearly love what they are doing in equal measure.
As if it couldn't get better 'Back it Up' is another great song with a pounding beat that is almost Bonhamesque in just how hard Neil Mason hits the drums. The band gets the audience singing back every line, creating an incredible audience reaction the like of which I haven't seen in a while. Cleverly controlling the feedback from the speakers Jaren strikes harder at his guitar and as the music reaches a crescendo, he throws a can in the air, shouting "it's good to be back in London and seeing you getting bigger and bigger every time", and it's clear to see why.
There is a quick guitar change and the band ramp up the volume into the heavy 'I'm Southern' which has another infectious sing along chorus and the band play another electrifying performance that instantly connects with the crowds.
'Party Like You', has a nice funky riff that has everyone clapping and is definitely a fan-favourite due to its high-energy. It also has great instrumentation with hints of Ram Jam's song 'Black Betty' and is awash with great country party clichés. When a band like this has the ability to go by their own rules musically, I feel at times the song swings too much towards bro country territory.
That being said the next song, 'Graffiti', is for me a fabulous song lyrically with all the emotional depth and sentiment of Springsteen at his best expressing the adventure of youth and what it's like growing up in a small town.
Jaren responds to the audience's affection for the band and shows his gratitude for their support by exclaiming: "It's pretty cool and we sure appreciate you! We're with you like Braveheart or some shit".
'Running Red lights' is a tremendously powerful ballad that is a heartfelt tribute to Jaren's wife. It's clear by the emotional intensity in his voice just how much it means for her to be with him in the audience this evening. The stripped back guitar accentuates the desperation in Jaren's voice, and features stunning lap steel guitar playing from Kelby Ray Caldwell. When the band stops everyone in the audience continue singing the chorus right up until the end. Jaren explains to everyone that they've come a long way from the Barfly and he thanks everyone for supporting southern rock.
'Peace Love And Dixie' has a funky riff and infectious drum pattern, in a similar vein to Aerosmith's 'Walk This Way'. It clearly fixes the band's colours firmly to their mast and is their modern day anthem to the south.
'Get Your Buzz On' has a great interplay between Jaren and the drummer Neil Mason who once again hits the drums with such force and complexity in his playing, it is truly stunning to watch him in action. This follows with 'Life', a very bluesy number about relationships you don't want to get into, Jaren explains.
'Down To The River' is a powerhouse of a performance with both flanger and phase effects fully turned up on his guitar; Jaren controls the resulting feedback with considerable skill and assertiveness. The song seems like a spiritual yearning to return back to his roots when troubles are too much to bear, and for Jaren this means that deliverance comes to him in the waters of the delta. He flicks his guitar pick in his hand as if to shrug off life's adversities. He breaks into a lead guitar burst over his back and explains how he has been crying between songs and is a little embarrassed.
'Days Of Gold' is a real foot tapper of a song and the audience happily sing and clap along getting everyone back into a party atmosphere while one of the final highlights of the evening's set is 'White Lightning', a song that the band fought for to as their first choice single for Big Machine record label as it is a firm favourite that everyone knows the lyrics to, a ballad Jaren wrote to his wife.
The Empire once again erupts to the sound of the whole audience singing each and every line of the song and it's a great way to end tonight's performance and there's a feeling of being uplifted by the great atmosphere and sheer enjoyment felt by everyone in the room.
There is an encore and Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown join Cadillac Three on stage with a Tom Petty jam. Jaren reminds everyone that he has known this kid for a long time and it's clear they have taken him to their hearts. They finish with their last song, 'The South', about being raised in Nashville, Tennessee.
People had come to be entertained by a band with their roots unashamedly in southern American rock, who have targeted the European market more than any other. It is clear all their hard work has paid off, and the transition to bigger venues is definitely on the cards. Whilst taking their bow Jaren ends the show with these final words: "God Bless London, and God Bless the south!"
Cadillac Three setlist:
Bury Me In My Boots
Soundtrack To A Six Pack
Back It Up
Party Like You
Running Red lights
Peace Love And Dixie
Get Your Buzz On
Down To The River
Days Of Gold
Tyler Bryant Setlist:
Weak & Weepin'
House On Fire
Lipstick Wonder Woman
House That Jack Built