It isn’t often that concert reviews are done for opening acts, but then again, Charm City Devils are not your typical opening act. The boys from Baltimore rocked the Fox Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino in CT this past weekend as the openers for Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators. Because they deliver headliner-worthy live performances, it would have been an injustice to just give them a mention in the Slash review that will be featured later in the week.
Anyone who listens to SiriusXM’s Octane is certainly familiar with CCD’s hit singles “Man Of Constant Sorrow” and “Devil Is A Woman,” and possibly “Shots” (the first single off of their upcoming album – Battles). These singles are all strong studio tracks that come to life and reach an entirely different level when performed live by this underrated, high-energy, hard rock quintet.
Opening acts, for the most part, face the challenge of trying to win over a crowd – that has come to see the headliner – with a limited set, and virtually no stage show. These bands spend countless hours traveling by van from show to show, and then spend the day waiting to perform a set that is typically shorter than their sound check.
After a cool, pre-recorded introduction, Charm City Devils launched into “Spite” with the room more than half-empty. Although the audience lacked any real energy, the band brought a ton of their own to the stage. A kickass version of “Devil Is A Woman” followed, but the room still felt kind of flat.
One of the reasons that I traveled over three hours to see this show was because I had seen Charm City Devils earlier in the summer as the opener for The Winery Dogs, and their performance in a fairly intimate setting blew me away. I loved the way that frontman, John Allen, worked the crowd to perfection during “True Love (Hell Yeah)” the first time that I saw them, so I was disappointed to see that, despite his best efforts, this crowd wasn’t as responsive to the interactive element of the song this time around.
The band put forth a tremendous amount of energy during the first half of their set, but the crowd still remained somewhat lethargic, so I didn’t have high expectations that they would suddenly come to life when the band launched into “I Got Mine” (a Zeppelin-esque blues rocker), but thankfully, I was wrong!
The energy in the room started to build as the riff from Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile” was played in the middle of the song. When the band briefly broke into Led Zeppelin’s “Bring It On Home,” the crowd started showing signs of life.
The bluesy guitars, the fat bass sound, the powerful drums, the cool talk box and Allen’s soulful, soaring vocals definitely woke up the crowd. With the band grooving in unison in Red Hot Chili Peppers fashion, there was a palpable energy in the room, and the crowd finally erupted.
With a captive audience, Allen discussed the reality of traveling the country as an opening act. He told the crowd that each CD sold puts two gallons of gas in the van, and that he would be at the merch table as soon as their set ended to meet anyone who was interested in talking to him.
Social media has broken down the walls between fans and artists nowadays, albeit in a fairly anonymous way. In contrast to social media, getting face-to-face with the fans without requiring a backstage pass added a very intriguing human element to the show.
After addressing the crowd, the band broke into “Man Of Constant Sorrow.” The gritty vocals and impassioned delivery of this brooding song showcased an entirely different dimension than the studio version, and inspired a whole new appreciation for what Charm City Devils have to offer.
The band finished their set with “Shots,” a rock anthem in the vein of Guns ‘N Roses and Buckcherry that promises to be a show closer for many years to come.
The six-song set left the electrified crowd wanting more. And though they didn’t get more music, many of them took the opportunity to purchase CDs and other merchandise from the energetic frontman right after the set.
During hard rock music’s pinnacle, only those with a meet and greet pass would have had the opportunity to talk to an artist after the show, and those meetings were usually very brief. To his credit, Allen not only took the time to meet people, but also to engage them in meaningful conversation, take pictures with them and sign any items that were requested of him.
The fact that the line at CCD’s merch table was longer than the line at Slash’s table showed that the band made a strong impression with their set. That was no surprise at all. What was a surprise was that the same thing happened right after Slash’s set ended. By that time, the entire band was there meeting people, posing for photos and signing everything that was put in front of them.
As I stood by listening to the conversations, I heard a number of fans tell the band that they had just seen them at a recent show in the area, and had to see them again. Everyone waited in line patiently to meet the band, who never rushed anyone away. They engaged in conversations and made real connections that transcend music appreciation.
Charm City Devils are the kind of band that you want to see succeed. They leave it all on the stage as they deliver a memorable live show that makes you want to come and see them again. But more importantly, they are truly grateful to the fans that spend their hard-earned money to support the band. Personally speaking, I cannot wait to see them as headliners.
The band’s third studio album, Battles, hits the streets on September 23rd. Click here to take advantage of the incredible pre-order deal that the band is offering, and make sure to like them on Facebook so you don’t miss them when they are playing in your area!