Chris McKay & The Critical Darlings

Thursday July 17, 2008


Acoustic Set with Chris & Joe

Atlanta, GA


Review by Mary Gadd

(Yes, the woman behind the webpage writes her first review!)

First, let’s backtrack a little, shall we? I initially met Chris when they played the Bowie Tribute show at 10 High back in November ’07. That was my first time seeing the Darlings and though they only played two songs, I was blown away. We fell out of touch until June when I received an email of encouragement from Chris after he had read one of my blogs about the difficult time I was going through.


After a month and half or so of emailing, the Critical Darlings finally came to Atlanta for me to see performing their own music…at least half of them did for an acoustic gig at a wine bar in East Atlanta. When I walked in a few minutes late (I had a "shoe dilemma"), I panicked thinking they had canceled at the last minute because Chris wasn't feeling well, as the man on stage was neither Chris nor Joe. As I looked around, there was Chris standing in the back waiting for me. He knew I would be coming alone and that I was nervous about the idea of standing or sitting by myself; so when I got there, he immediately introduced me to Joe and Manda and showed me to my seat- front and center, right between the two of them. I wasn't going to be sitting alone. I was beyond grateful and even more excited to hear live the songs I had memorized off C'mon Accept Your Joy and Satisfactionista.

Instead of having a set with just Chris and Joe, they were joined by Andy Easton (Tin Roof) and host Bill Turpin (father of Collective Soul's Will Turpin). Each took turns playing their own original music and when they could, the others would join in with backup vocals and guitars. By the end of the first song, you could see that Chris was feeling better and more relaxed, as the men joked with each other in between songs and even with Manda and me. Everyone was having a good time and sounded great. The place was about half full and the acoustic set made for great ambiance music for those who had come to eat and drink. The longer they played, the more chairs turned to watch them. By the second song, the guys decided to have a little contest about who could sing the most depressing song. (I know… having the most depressing songs is such a strange thing to brag about!) Chris, Andy and Bill took turns singing about sad things, while Joe, who played both Critical Darlings's songs and some of his solo music, seemed to have only upbeat tunes. His songs were a nice interlude to make sure no one left feeling too gloomy!

My favorite parts, of course, were when Chris and Joe played the music I knew and could sing along with. As they had initially planned to play three songs tops, they began taking requests after the third song. That is, Manda and I began telling the guys what songs to play next.

I was truly surprised at how well they translated their music from electric guitars to acoustics. I even requested "Worms on the Pavement," which caused both Chris and Joe to give me a funny look as Chris said, "I don't think we can do that acoustically, but I'll give it a try." I was floored! The acoustic version brought a new level of depth to the song that I didn't even realize was hiding in there. I can only compare it to Eric Clapton's "Layla"- hearing one version makes you almost forget there's another, as they are both so uniquely impressive.

By the end, the guys had been on stage for TWO HOURS! Everyone was having so much fun; the time seemed to fly by. I was very proud of Chris and Joe and have subsequently dubbed them the "Kings of Improv," as they pulled the show off beautifully and without any practice.

THANK YOU to Chris, Joe and Manda for being so cool and so kind. Y'all made me feel very welcome and immediately a part of the "Critical Darlings family."

Rock on, Darlings!

Mary :)



Atlanta, GA Set List

(WITHOUT Chris’ totally biased ratings for the evening!)

1. Porno Stack (Joe)
2. Rage On (Chris and Joe)
3. An Uncertain Flight (Chris)
4. Jessica's Wings (Andy Easton)
5. The Obvious Thing (Joe)
6. Go Away (Chris)
7. Missing You (Bill Turpin)
8. Happy Here And Now (Chris)
9. Too Beautiful (Joe)
10. Bits And Pieces (Andy Easton)
11. From Now 'Til Then (Chris and Joe)
12. Worms On The Pavement (Chris)
13. When I Fall (Andy)
14. Dust In The Wind (All Of Us)
15. Towel Cape Song (Chris)
16. One (Andy and Chris)
17. 7 Bridges Road (Andy and Chris)
18. Bill's Song (Bill)
19. Resurrection (Andy)
20. What We Are (Andy)
21. I Wasn't Alone (Bill and Chris)
22. Down (Chris)
23. Sometimes I'm Sam (Chris)
24. Until The Road Ends (Chris)
25. A Song For You (Chris)







All photos by Amanda McKay.

Copyright 2008