Chris McKay & The Critical Darlings

Thursday May 31, 2007
(With The Vinyl Strangers)

The Mission
Augusta, GA

Here's the live review from Ben Sadler of Music Live Wire
(Thanks, Ben, for letting us repost!)

"Chris McKay & The Critical Darlings hit Augusta's The Mission last Thursday night in support of their critically acclaimed, album, C'mon, Accept Your Joy!  This is the first time I've seen McKay in concert since the Star Zero days and I immediately began regretting that it had been so long. Consisting of long-standing bassist Frank DeFreese, newly added guitarist/vocalist Joe Orr, and drummer Josh Couillard, the new lineup billed "The Critical Darlings" is a great fit with McKay and a very capable vehicle for his songs. 

From the first chords of "The Only Way", McKay and company really make you feel glad to be where you are with a combination of great stage presence and, simply put, an immediate understanding that these guys are mastering the material.  Not only that, they're clearly having a great time in the process.  McKay has truly gotten to the point where his guitar has become an extension of his body.  Wielding his Hamer back and forth, never missing a note, and confidently playing remaining riffs on the neck alone, McKay has become one of the best guitarists I've seen live. 

They also have a nicely formulated show structure that allows the audience to catch their breath a few times during the set.  They can end one song and immediately launch into the next without a hitch and maintaining perfect timing throughout. 

The guys feverishly ripped through favorites new and old  like "Sometimes I'm Sam," "Towel Cape Song," "Scared of Myself," "Phony," and "Taking its Toll" before closing with a rousing rendition of "Give Up Town." 

I had a smile on my face the whole time and that is a rarity among the many, many shows I've attended.  It put McKay & The Darlings in the same company as Muse, The Darkness and Richie Havens.  The show was easily in my top two or three of this year.  They will be making their way to The Rooster's Den in Columbia, SC this coming Saturday (June 9) and Saturday can't get here fast enough.  After the treat in Augusta, I certainly can't imagine being anywhere else.  Keep checking on their tour and make sure to be there if they come anywhere near you."

Benjamin Sadler -

Alright, it's me again.

Wasn't that an awesome review? I'm so glad that Ben liked it.

I wish I felt as good about this one as the reviewer but I guess that's the wonder of differing opinions, eh? Here's the thing. We got into town and everything was cool. It was the most relaxed I've ever been before a show. We had a handful of people drive in from South Carolina and I was thrilled that they had come 100 miles to see us. I was psyched and ready to blow 'em away. On top of that, The Jason (the booking agent) was so cool to us that I can't even explain it. Not only did he let us "rearrange the furniture" in pure rock star style, he let us do whatever we wanted. He even helped us set up some stuff. It was great and it was looking to be a great night. Prior to the show, we even did a TV interview. I honestly don't know where it will be seen yet but the show's called On The Radar With Joe And The Jason. I know that because we had to do some seasonal drop-spots.

So yeah, good stuff, right?

Well, about 10 minutes before show time, something very strange happened. I was going through my usual pre-show ritual when BAM, my heart started skipping like crazy. Not only that but my pulse rate was through the roof. I suddenly felt like I was going to faint and all of my strength had been sapped. I ran into the building and through to the big stage in back where I collapsed for a few minutes. I got dressed and then let everyone know what was going on. My heart rate steadied but was still way too fast and I was feeling very "off". Everyone was great to me. Joe sat down and discussed it a bit with me. I put ice in my hand and crushed it, wiping some of the coldness on my forehead to help bring my pulse back (it seems to help). I was about 5 minutes past start time now. I figured I had a job to do and people had traveled to see it so I needed to get on with it. There's a hospital every 15 feet in Augusta so if worse came to worst, I figured I was in as good a place as any to have it happen.

We all took the stage and launched into the usual set list. I couldn't get my breath for the first couple of songs. And believe me, when we did "Waiting For The Siren", I really felt like I was doing just that. Personally, I never got my groove going. I tried. I think I still played and sang well but the energy wasn't there that I like to dish out. From what I hear, the other guys made up for it. I'm thankful that they were there to cover me a bit. Joe was doing particularly well until he pulled the head off of his Marshall cabinet in "I Won't Stand Still". Mike Rietveld (our other drummer - you'll be hearing more from him soon) leaped up to help Joe get things straightened out as we kept playing (Thanks, Mike.). After that, I don't think Joe's head was completely in it either. That left Frank and Josh the only ones on their game. I think they both were. There were a few mistakes here and there and this was one of my least favorite shows with this line up (Loganville was slightly sloppier and the last Tasty World upstairs show was a little less energetic) but we still pulled it off. Under the circumstances, that's pretty amazing.


Chris' completely biased star reviews of each song performed.

1. The Only Way***
2. Sometimes I'm Sam***
3. Waiting For The Siren***
4. Sadder Day***
5. Towel Cape Song****
6. I Know Too Much (For My Own Good)****
7. Scared Of Myself****
8. I Won't Stand Still***
9. Phony****
10. Taking Its Toll****
11. Give Up Town****

Now my only hope is that I can get myself back together in time for the June 9 show in Columbia. That's my hometown area and we haven't been that way in 5 years. I have a lot of friends talking about coming. I want to rock their brains out. As I type this, I have 5 days until that show and I'm still feeling pretty rough. You can bet that I'm going to do everything I can in the meantime to get myself back up to par!

Thanks to The Jason, Joe, Emily, Ben, April, Benji, Mike and The Vinyl Strangers for all the help and support.

Photos by Amanda Stahl.