Chris McKay & The Critical Darlings


Friday January 27, 2006
Jake's Toadhouse - Atlanta, GA


This was the first show with this lineup that felt like things are falling into place. And considering the fact that Mike had been up since 1:30 am (we went on at 9 pm) and travelled over 600 miles before getting here only makes that even more of a miracle. When we pulled up to Jake's, there was a huge tour bus out front. Apparently Lynam just signed with Universal Records and that's one of the perks they got out of the deal. I spoke to Jacob from the band for a while. He seemed like a cool guy and was very nice and accomodating to us. He looked like a more refined, softer version of Sid Vicious and spoke with a slight Alabama accent. Here's hoping we can hook up again at some point. Since this was a Quincy Entertainment show, I got to see my friends Mike Cohen, Scoley and Scott Householder at this gig. It was so good to see 'em all again. They have always been so supportive and helpful to us. I hope one day I can repay them properly. We did a brief soundcheck of "I Know Too Much (For My Own Good)" then Mike and Frank took off to try to get some dinner before the show. They got back right in time. My biggest surprise tonight was seeing our Athenian friend Jonathan Thompson show up outside. He said he just happened to check the site and see the date. I was blown away that he would make such an effort for us. And, as always, it's good to have someone there who can give you a fair post-show assessment.

We jumped right in tonight with "Until The Road Ends". My hands were cold still and I slid past a few chords on the way to 'em. That's another reason why "Colors" is a great warms me up guitar and vocal wise. We wanted to experiment a little bit tonight, though, so "Until The Road Ends" was a safe experiment. "Sam" came next and it was perfectly solid. I don't remember a single thing being wrong with it. The vibe was a little weird at the beginning, mostly because the set up of the club is kind of strange. We were playing straight ahead and since we were the openers, pretty much the whole crowd that was there early was at the bar, which was to our right. Thankfully, the most important people to us were straight ahead so we played to those precious few early birds. "Into My View" came third and it was darn near perfect. I'm thrilled to say that we're finally falling into line again. Considering how little we've been able to rehearse, that's impressive. I'm even getting more confident with the middle 8 vocal now. In fact, "Into My View" is one of the ones where I feel like I can honestly say that no one should miss the original lineup. Frank, Mike and I play this just as well, if not better, than the original band. On the other hand, I decided to drop "I Won't Stand Still" tonight 'cause that one does need backups. So we segued "Into My View" into "Phony" for the first time ever. It worked remarkably well and I think we did a great version. We even brought our smoke machine back out and Frank triggered it while I played the solo. When the delay was ringing out at the end, we got a nice bit of applause. And I felt like we deserved it this time.

Something very strange happened about halfway through "Scared Of Myself." My mind went totally and absolutely blank on how to play the song. And it did it right at the start of the solo. I'm back in the swing of it now enough to where I just told myself to relax and trust my hands to know what to do. And to my surprise, they did. I actually sat and watched my hands play the entire solo without making them do it. It was a really, really bizarre feeling. Funnily enough, when I remembered how to play it and got control of what I was doing, I hit a bad note in the simple solo at the end. It figures. My hands know the song better than my brain. I can only guess that this form of muscle memory is how major touring bands are. I imagine that's how some acts can go out on stage totally wasted and still pull it off. After "Scared Of Myself", I introduced Mike. He put on his newly decorated cape (now with sparkly stars!) and came out to the front of the stage. He even ventured to the mic, found Scoley in the audience (who he had heard say before the show that "Towel Cape Song" was his favorite) and said, "This one's for you." Then he pointed a drum stick in his general direction and a fireball shot out of it. I couldn't help but burst into hysterics. So the Critical Darlings had our first instance of pyro tonight. God help us all, we've reached the top of a very slippery slope! Maybe the fireball stunted my brain 'cause I actually played pretty poorly on "Towel Cape". That's usually the easiest one all night for me but I dropped a couple of lyrics and missed a couple of notes. It wasn't bad. It just wasn't as strong as usual. Neither was "Someone's Trying To Tell Us Something." Again, there was nothing really wrong with it but it didn't have that extra edge. The Zeppelin tribute bit in the middle was a bit off-time, too. I will say this. Mike was much stronger tonight than he has been. I didn't even have to stop and repace things for him. He hung in there through the whole show despite being beyond exhausted. He has one injured finger (probably broken and rehealed wrong) from before and he hit a rim during this set and injured another on the same hand. Both of them were swollen to about twice the size they should be. Still, he played well. Tonight, we did our usual closer. I preceded "Taking Its Toll" with "In The Year 2525" again. Then we had the club mirror ball and smoke turned on. Frank hit one brief note during the first verse that was so bad that we both couldn't help laughing. The rest of it was strong. In fact, this was the best this lineup's ever done it. We've finally got the cues all together again. "Give Up Town" was good, too. I still miss the backups on it but the energy was good. After the big flying ending, I announced that we usually close with that but you see, before the show, the promoter Mike Cohen had asked me if we could do a KISS song for him. Of course, I couldn't resist that challenge. First, we had him shout requests for which one he wanted. Mike and I played snippets of a slew of 'em including "Detroit Rock City", "Cold Gin", "She", "Watching You", "Parasite" and a few others. Frank even joined us for a verse of "Hard Luck Woman." As we fumbled to find just the right one to end with, I did a sloppy intro to "Black Diamond" before sliding into "Deuce". Obviously, we knew that one and we rocked it alright. I couldn't resist jumping up on the speakers on the front of the stage for the solos. The only significant error was at the end. When we were doing the big A-chord ending, I slipped and stumbled during my leaping around. This caused Mike to miss a few hits as he was trying to cue off my "grand gestures". But stumbling around isn't so grand so that wasn't quite as powerful as it should've been. But then we just sped up and sped up 'til we couldn't anymore. I did one more leap and we were done. While I wasn't blown away by this show, I think it was the most professional and solid one we've had since our CD release party. And that's a good feeling for me. I'm looking forward to the next one and that's a feeling that's eluded me for the last few.


Completely biased star reviews of each song performed.

1. Until The Road Ends***
2. Sometimes I'm Sam****
3. Into My View****
4. Phony****
5. Scared Of Myself****
6. Towel Cape Song***
7. Someone's Trying To Tell Us Something***
8. In The Year 2525 / Taking Its Toll***
9. Give Up Town****
10. Black Diamond (Intro) / Deuce***

After the show, Mike Cohen told me that he thought this was the best he's ever seen us. That made me feel pretty good. Granted, he's only seen one other show that I thought was decent (and that was when we opened for A Flock Of Seagulls for him). He also made sure to let me know that he thought Mike was a great drummer. He is. Just wait 'til he gets the rust and exhaustion worn off, then he'll do some real damage. Jonathan also said that he thought it was a solid gig. Remember, he flat out told us that the last time he saw us was "a trainwreck." And that's why we love him and need to have him around. He'll give it to us straight. He agreed with me that the missing backups were still an issue on a couple of 'em but not that many. But we're still figuring it out so it's cool. He also seemed to appreciate the "fireball from the drumstick" trick that Mike "The Magician" Rietveld pulled off. He likened it to something from professional wrestling. Now THAT'S a show!

Thanks to everyone who brought us out and helped make this show run so smoothly. We hope to see you again soon!


Photos by Amanda Stahl.