Thursday, August 20, 2009

Daughtry rocks the house in Hollywood

This review was posted on The Orange County Register earlier today

Daughtry more relaxed but no less fiery at Hollywood show

When I caught Chris Daughtry in January 2007, it was the opening night of his national club tour at a packed House of Blues in Anaheim on the heels of the release of his self-named debut two months earlier. He displayed solid songwriting skills and always impressive vocals at that show, yet he was still somewhat hesitant as the high-profile leader of a hard-charging rock outfit. Daughtry was so serious, at times it was unclear whether he was actually enjoying his newfound fame.

What a difference 30 months makes.
Performing Wednesday night before an enthusiastic capacity crowd at the Music Box at the Fonda in Hollywood, the North Carolina native proved that while some things have remained the same now that his second album is out -– his soaring vocals and melodic hard-rock approach are constants throughout Leave This Town –- his skills as a performer are now equal to the rest of his arsenal.

Daughtry (also the name of his band) played a mere 11 songs when he headlined at the Mouse House several years ago, but his set at the Music Box featured 15 originals, many of which the audience (bundled close to the stage) were more than happy to sing along to while capturing photos and video with their digital cameras. The longer, 80-minute set allowed the singer-guitarist and his supporting players to deliver a set showcasing their engaging blend of successful radio rock (“Home,” “Feels Like Tonight,” “No Surprise”), neo-grunge (“Crashed,” the night-ending “You Don’t Belong”) and arena-ready ballads (“Open Up Your Eyes”).

What impressed most, however, were some of the creative rearrangements of several of his earliest songs, and how he reworked those by utilizing the skills of his band. With Daughtry, Brian Craddock and Josh Steeley all on electric guitar, “Breakdown” was launched with haunting, layered texture. Then Daughtry roared forth emotive vocals over that artful soundscape before bassist Josh Paul and drummer Joey Barnes came in with the heavy approach of the original recording. “Over You,” also from the first disc, benefited from a similar reworking.

What also struck me was how much Daughtry has grown into the role, interacting with audience members squeezed near the front and playing forceful rhythms on his Gibson guitar as Steeley unleashed an impressive solo during the hard-edged “There and Back Again.”
He even smiled.
Times being what they are, that was a good thing.

Singer-songwriter-keyboardist David Hodges, a member of Evanescence from 1999-2002, delivered a solid 30-minute opening set. With a sound that draws natural comparisons with Jack’s Mannequin, the Little Rock native’s best song was the infectious “Another Red Light.” A reworked cover of Snow Patrol’s “Run” was also effective.

Main set: Every Time You Turn Around / It’s Not Over / Ghost of Me / No Surprise / Breakdown / Crashed / Open Up Your Eyes / September / Over You / Life after You / Supernatural / Feels Like Tonight / There and Back Again
Encore: Home / You Don’t Belong

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