Concert Review—Chickenfoot at the Fillmore in Denver, Colorado
September 11, 2009
I am a writer. And when one is striving to maintain professionalism, it is one’s duty to present an unbiased account of the subject matter, is it not?
I tried. I really tried, but I just couldn’t do it. I was swept “Down the Drain” and it was so, so fine…
I first saw Chickenfoot perform at the Fillmore in San Francisco on May 17, 2009. It was their third live performance as a band; their debut CD had not yet been released. That show blew me away.
The Denver show topped it.
Chickenfoot was tighter than ever. And they delivered the kind of rock music that’s timeless and unforgettable.
The thing that continually amazes me about this band is that none of them upstages the others. They are all top-notch musicians in their own rites but they complement one another beautifully and it seems so effortless.
That evening, I had a backstage tour ticket. Our group was escorted into the venue to watch Davy Knowles and Back Door Slam, the band who would be opening for Chickenfoot, do their soundcheck. Davy is only 22 years old, but he has the soul of an old blues man. His music is in the same vein as that of Jonny Lang. Rock and the blues will never die as long as there are talented people like Davy keeping the soul alive.
We were then escorted into Chickenfoot’s dressing area, a room a little larger than a closet, where all the trunks of clothes stood open and waiting for the band. I think Sammy’s trunk had more shoes than shirts! Michael Anthony’s still had the “VH” logo on it from his Van Halen days.
We were then taken to the hospitality room where the band hangs out before the show. There was a small drum set for Chad Smith, guitars, amps and equipment for Joe Satriani and Mikey, including Mikey’s signature Jack Daniel’s bass with two small shooters of JD stuck in it, a portable wine trunk stocked with about two cases of wine for Sammy, and platters of fruit, sweets and snacks. And of course, Sammy’s bottle of Cabo Wabo tequila was chilling in the refrigerator.
They then took us onstage and showed us all the guitars in sectioned crates, the sound board, the snakes of cords, floor lights all in position, amps and Chad’s drums. What a strange feeling being up there and looking down at the empty room which would soon come to life with music and screaming fans. The Fillmore has huge glass chandeliers hanging from the ceiling over what used to be its massive dance floor.
I couldn’t help but think about the many people it takes to put on a show of this caliber and how hard their lives must be.
After the tour, those of us who wanted to participate were given a digital recorder to record the song “Sexy Little Thing.” Apparently the band wanted audience footage to use for an upcoming video for their website. What a great way to get the fans involved! I took one but couldn’t figure out how to use it until about half-way through the song. But it was fun anyway.
We were then allowed into the venue to wait for the show.
Joe’s guitars onstage
When Chickenfoot came onstage—with their square peace sign logo lit up above them, lights flashing, their energy tore from them like an avalanche breaking loose. “The Foot” had been unleashed!
“Avenida Revolution” was just as powerful and exciting as it was the first time I heard them play it–thundering, brazenly grabbing you by the throat and never letting up.
After a few songs, Sammy joked about the altitude, saying: “You only have to smoke one joint and do three shots and you’re f—ed up in Denver!” He also said that the last time he was here, it snowed and he and Mikey were hoping that didn’t happen again. You never know in Denver.
This time the setlist was arranged differently and I liked how they changed it up so that it didn’t follow the same sequence as their album.
Chad Smith demolition squad
Throughout the evening, Chad must have thrown out at least six dozen drumsticks into the crowd. He even pulled a woman out of the audience and had her sit next to him during Hagar’s “Bad Motor Scooter,” inserting drumsticks into the front of her low-cut top, pulling them out one by one, playing a few beats and then tossing the stick into the audience. Drumsticks were bouncing all over the stage and landing in the audience. At the end of the show, he kicked his drums over, then grabbed his high-hat cymbal and held it over his head before tossing it to the ground. The man is a maniac! The way he pounds those drums shakes the entire earth. He doesn’t sit obediently behind the drums and keep the beat like all the other drummers I’ve seen. Chad messes with your mind. He’s all over the stage; he gets up and sits on the speakers or his drums, and he teases Sammy: “You’re f—ed up when you come out of the dressing room, Sam, and when you come out of the hotel!”
He also announced that the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) had officially certified that Chickenfoot’s self-titled debut album had gone gold! (Sold over 500,000 copies)
Satriani outdid himself. He was such a pleasure to watch, as he made his guitars move mountains, sing ballads and erupt in ferocious blazes with ease. Then he just stood there and smiled while Sammy and Chad hammed it up. This man has more talent than anyone I’ve ever heard and yet he remains humble. At one point, Joe took out his video camera and filmed everyone onstage and off.
Mikey was more outgoing than in the past—he walked to the edge of the stage and interacted with people in the audience. He sang an occasional lead vocal—and did a great job of it. His backing vocals and signature bass style are well-known in rock music and that night he did not disappoint. His vocals were spot on and his playing better than ever. Rarely is he as front and center as he’s been in Chickenfoot and he deserves to be! At one point, Mikey brought Sammy a cup with booze in it. Sam took a swig, then Mikey finished it off, and went over and screamed into the microphone. Crazy!
Sammy’s voice never wavered; it was strong and solid, yet melted into velvet for “Learning to Fall.” He delivered a stellar performance from the first note to the last. He jumped, danced, pranced across the stage, reached out and acknowledged the audience and had them singing along, fists in the air and jumping up and down. The Denver crowd really seemed to love his performance of Montrose’s “Bad Motor Scooter,” which he played on his slide guitar, and “Oh Yeah,” in which he had them all fully engaged and joining in.
He asked the crowd how well the Denver radio stations were playing their music and the audience booed. I have to agree–Chickenfoot needs more air time in Colorado.
Their rendition of “My Generation” by The Who and a teaser of Led Zeppelin’s “The Immigrant Song” were a real treat. I wished they would have played the whole thing because what they did play sounded phenomenal. I think Sammy sang “My Generation” even better than Roger Daltry. Apparently these guys can play anything.
Notably absent from the setlist was “Running Out.” Don’t know why they didn’t play this.
I lost it again during “Learning to Fall.” I’d seen them perform this live before, but I just couldn’t help myself. There is something about the music, Sammy’s voice, and the harmonies in this piece that takes over and rips me apart. I couldn’t stop the tears. There was however, a moment where Joe usually plays a note that rises up out of the music like a fast-forward video of a rose blooming, rising out of the ashes into its glory. For some reason, Joe chose to change the notes he played this time; he didn’t take it all the way up like he did before and the impact wasn’t as great. It was still an awesome song and a great performance, though.
“Sexy Little Thing” exploded. The band was so tight on this—I think this had to be one of my favorites of the night. Also “Get It Up,” where the lights flashing on and off accented the sheer muscle of this band, who were all over the stage.
“Down the Drain” was dirty, nasty and solid. It made me feel like I was being sucked into something forbidden, glorious, dark and full of soul. Joe’s guitar solo went over the edge—a wild and wonderful trip into his heart.
Through this entire concert, I tried to maintain a professional approach, to be able to relate this experience to my readers in a professional manner, (which I’m obviously still not doing) but how can you remain professional when the music is so captivating that it pulls you in and forces you to lose control? (Because that’s what it’s supposed to do!) Where do you draw the line for the sake of objectivity—maintain an equitable distance as opposed to becoming so involved in the moment that you don’t even care who you are anymore?
How can you be disciplined when Sammy is so into the music that he’s standing on his tiptoes, holding the microphone in both hands, bending backward and screaming: “it’s all… down… the drain… Yeahhhhhhhh” and Joe is cranking out sounds on his guitar so fast and furious that you can’t even see his fingers moving over the strings, Mikey is pounding his bass, Chad is owning the night and it’s all blending like one big fusion of music and spirit?
As spectators, we have no ammunition. We are blown to smithereens.
It doesn’t get any better than this.