REVIEW: Year Of The Tiger. Myles Kennedy and Co. in Chicago

Myles Kennedy and Co. kicked off their Fall U.S. Tour at Concord Music Hall on a frigid week night in Chicago. The biggest difference this time compared to when he rolled through earlier this Spring on his solo acoustic tour, was the addition of a full band. A power trio, as Myles referred to them, that included Tim Tournier on bass and Zia Uddin on drums. The upside of these additional players, both of whom also play on the album, Year Of The Tiger, was the connection they had to each other and the songs being played.

The night started with the full band and Myles played electric guitar for Devil on the Wall, the first of many from Year Of The Tiger and the upbeat cadence of the song really helped to set the tone for the evening. Myles continued to play electric guitar on The Great Beyond, which really enhanced this epic the song. That, plus every time Myles nailed those well-loved high notes, the crowd was always eager to respond positively over his wide vocal range. They continued with Ghost of Shangri La, where Myles showcased his slide playing before jumping into Haunted By Design a soft, plucky sounding tune which ended with an unexpected jam at end.

Some may have recognized Tim Tournier on stage from his other band, Man The Mighty or when he toured with Myles as a second guitarist on the U.S. solo tour earlier in the year. The biggest difference this time around is that Tim is playing bass instead of guitar. Let me tell you, it suits him. While he mostly kept to his section of the stage, he could be heard loud and clear. The addition of bass in the live setting for the songs on Year Of The Tiger made a huge impact (You no longer have a reason to be envious of fans overseas that have already seen this line up!) There were a couple instances during the night when the entire band was jamming out and the connection Myles made with Tim showed genuine camaraderie.

At this point, Tim and Zia left the stage. Myles joked they wanted to rock, then chill a bit, then rock again. Having switched to an acoustic guitar for the first time that night, Myles played the first of a few songs not on his solo album. Fans were treated to Standing in the Sun, a song he sings with Slash and The Conspirators. He also helped to create a steady tempo, with what I assume was his own drum pedal of sorts as it was hidden behind his monitor, along with the crowd who clapped along to the beat.

Myles chose to sit down as he played and sang Alter Bridge song, Addicted to Pain. His solo variation on what is traditionally a rock song was not only a nice surprise, it was interesting to hear his interpretation. The band came back out and Myles switched back to an electric guitar. He told everyone that they didn’t have the option to use all the various instruments that appeared on the solo album (banjo, lap steel, etc.), so they decided to turn it up, add distortion and rock out to fill up the sonic space. As soon as he mentioned this approach to Turning Stones, the crowd immediately cheered. This is personally one of my favorite songs on the solo album, so it was a welcomed addition to the beginning of an already great set.

The next back to back song combination was truly unique. Myles played his steel Resonator on Blind Faith, another from Year Of The Tiger, and there was a brief calm of reflection as the heavy lyrics washed over the crowd who seemed to be hanging on his every word.

Faith can be blind
But it cannot justify
The tragedy of a love’s demise
We can’t replace

No final rite
There will be no last goodbye
Like a whisper in the night
You slipped away

This was followed by a potentially unexpected song to some. With Myles, once again on acoustic guitar, the entire band started to play. I was curious to pay attention to the crowd to see how many realized what they were hearing. As the band carried on with the song, I would have to imagine more than one light bulb was going off in people’s heads, of those that were not familiar with this cover, as they come to the conclusion they were hearing the most awesome rendition of Iron Maiden’s The Trooper. While I have heard Myles play this version before, to me, theirs is the most original, unsuspecting cover I have ever heard.

For those that might not know, Myles and Zia played together in The Mayfield Four. While it has been quite a few years since they were in a band together, the apparent connection they have with each other is as obvious as ever. Whether they were sharing music cues or laughing over jokes on stage, they clearly were enjoying their time together again. At this point in the show, Zia came forward to play a set of bongos at the front of the stage as Myles thought about out how long it had been since they last played together. As they tried to figure out if it really was 17 years ago, someone down front mentioned Myles’ role in the movie, Rockstar. Myles recalled working with Mayfield when Steel Dragon happened. Zia then commented slowly, “Steel f-cking Dragon.” Myles then belted out, “Stand up and shout,” in that famous high register and people in the crowd went nuts. I heard a guy next to me say, “We were all waiting for it.” Good times.

When Zia asked how many years it had been since that role, Myles firmly stated, “Not long enough.” As the crowd reacted, Myles explained there was only one reason; he didn’t enjoy wearing the wig and leather outfit. Zia chimed in with, “You looked great in it.” After some laughs, Myles confirmed he thoroughly enjoyed the movie and being involved in that side of the industry. He then shared a story about Brad Pitt (who was married to Jennifer Aniston at the time) while on set for the movie. Myles explained he was between takes and walked back to the trailer in said outfit, head down, when he passed by Brad Pitt, who looked at him and just started laughing.

Zia followed that with, “How many people can say they got laughed at by Brad Pitt though?” and the crowd cheered excitedly. Myles responded, “Good point. I feel much better now.” After this brief and fun trip down memory lane, Myles and Zia performed a soothing version of White Flag from The Mayfield Four album, Second Skin (2001). At the end of the song, Zia and Myles were all smiles as they shared a playful fist bump. I can only imagine the stories these guys can tell. Another brief glimpse into their joking nature came when Myles tried to pass off his lyric book as being full of math equations; that he was studying between songs. Zia was quick with the bah-dum dum on the drums and Myles quickly turned and laughed as he threw a guitar pick towards Zia.

Sticking with the more laid back portion of the show, the full band, with Myles on acoustic guitar, performed an inspiring version of Songbird from Year Of The Tiger before Myles was once again solo on stage, armed with only an acoustic guitar and his voice, for Alter Bridge’s Watch Over You. His solo spotlight continued, although this time he was back with the Resonator and his slide for the Robert Johnson cover, Travelling Riverside Blues. He was clever to sub out the second city named in the line, “I got women’s in Vicksburg, clean on into Tennessee” with Chicago, but this song really gave us a peek into his Blues side. He played flawlessly and there was an almost seamless transition straight into World on Fire (Slash and The Conspirators). My God. This version alone is worth the price of admission.

I would like to take a moment and talk about the guitars. So many guitar changes and all very valid. While one can never have too many guitars (No seriously, it’s not possible), on this night alone, I think I counted three to four different electrics, including Gibson and Fender, at least two acoustics and of course the steel Resonator. Amazing. The band closed out the main part of the set with the title track from Year of the Tiger, with Myles on acoustic, and a jam at the end of the song that put a huge stamp of approval on the night. After everyone left the stage, it was only a minute or two before Myles came back out, by himself, for the encore. He shared that people come up to him and tell him how much they like that “Eye of The Tiger” song. He laughed and said, “I’m sure you do. It sold like a bazillion copies.” He then played and sang a snippet of the song by Survivor, including his drum pedal for effect, and some in the audience joined in singing at one point. The crowd loved it!

He joked, “Thank you. Goodnight,” paused, then strummed the opening notes to an Alter Bridge song that doesn’t get played by the band. His acoustic version of All Ends Well was well received by those in attendance who also participated in singing during portions of the song,

If you believe in nothing else
Just keep believing in yourself
There will be times of trouble,
It’s gonna hurt like hell
This much I know, all ends well
It all ends well

I wish everyone could experience what happened to be the last song of the night, Love Can Only Heal from Year Of The Tiger. While it was initially only Myles singing and playing electric guitar for the first couple of verse/chorus segments, it was during this time that you could have heard a pin drop. I honestly heard no sound from anyone in the crowd. It was such an intense moment of the night. The kind of experience that gives you goosebumps. A moment that is best experienced live and in person, not through a screen at home while watching a video on YouTube.

By the break and the La-lala-lala-lala sing-along portion, which the crowd obliged, Zia who was already at his kit, started adding little various sounds at just the right time. By the time they got to the portion where the drums and bass really kicked in, the song was in full motion, which provided an excellent background by the time all eyes were on Myles as he played slide.

Once the approximate one hour and 45-minute show was over, Myles took every opportunity to shake as many hands as possible of those standing across the front barricade. No matter how “famous” you might think he is, Myles Kennedy continues to show everyone just how down to earth, personable and appreciative he is of his fan base. I want to add, while the majority of people have seen Myles Kennedy perform with Alter Bridge and or Slash and The Conspirators, the one thing I wasn’t expecting as such a huge take away from attending this round of dates with a full band, was how much Myles shines as a guitar player. Sure, we all know he can play guitar, but he’s part of two other bands where the lead guitar player is almost as big as the band itself. Touring his solo project, all eyes are on him and he shines. Brilliantly. His dedication and impeccable approach to his craft not only showcases his talent, it’s clear he thoroughly enjoys playing and is having a lot of fun along the way.

Plenty of tour dates remain. Find those, along with VIP Meet and Greet options, here.

Read my recent interview with Myles Kennedy for the reason behind the decision to show a B&W photo gallery of this show, which can be found here.

Click here to read the review and see photos of opening band, Walking Papers.

Click on a photo below to view full size.



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