I’d been counting down the weeks/days/minutes/seconds looking forward to seeing Cadillac 3 and Tyler Bryant and The Shakedown; all sons of Nashville, Tennessee and both delivering very different brands of hard rocking music.
Cadillac 3 are Jaren Johnston on lead vocals and guitar, Kelby Ray on bass, dobro, acoustic guitar and vocals and Neil Mason on drums and backing vocals.
Jaren has co-written hit songs with country superstars Keith Urban, “You Gonna Fly,” and “Southern Girl”, with Faith Hill’s old man Tim McGraw, and “We’re All Somebody From Somewhere,” with Aerosmith’s legendary front man Steven Tyler. Mr Johnston certainly knows how to write a memorable song.
Cadillac 3’s two albums, “Tennessee Mojo,” and “Bury Me In My Boots,” are on constant rotation at my house and in my car; these guys really know how to write – every song a potential hit single. The rich combination of Southern rock with a country edge can be intoxicating. So tonight, I was well up for a kickin’ night of good time, sing-along entertainment.
Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown are a whole different proposition; with their soulful, roots-infused patchwork of melodies and muscular riffs, woven tightly with psychedelic grunge.
Tyler was a child prodigy at 15, presented with the Robert Johnson Gibson New Generation Award for aspiring young guitar players. In 2007 God, aka Eric Clapton, invited Tyler to play at his famed annual Crossroads Guitar Festival in Chicago. You got to be a bit good to get that invite.
But this is about far more than just Tyler, and a vehicle for a virtuoso guitarist. This line-up of Tyler Bryant on lead vocals and guitar, Graham Whitford, the son of Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford, on guitar and backing vocals, Noah Denney on bass and backing vocals, and Caleb Crosby on drums, have a couple of solid releases, the full album “Wild Child,” and six-track EP “The Wayside,” songs from both releases they played tonight in their szzling set.
From the second Tyler Bryant and The Shakedown hit the stage; you just know these guys are destined to become stars, if there is any justice. They tear around Birmingham’s 02 Academy stage like their lives depend on it.
Fresh from supporting AC/DC on their recent World tour, they are a perfectly oiled rock and roll machine, with both Tyler Bryant and Graham Whitford impressing greatly with their slide guitar technique. Every member of the band commits 100% to selling the music….. Throwing guitar-hero poses while never missing a beat.
More than proving that every member of Tyler Bryant and The Shakedown ooze showmanship, as well being exceptional musicians individually and most certainly collectively, palpable chemistry galore, drummer Caleb Crosby took to the front of the stage with a snare drum on its chrome stand, and proceeded to beat the life out of it in an extended jam. Running around the stage while thumping the skin, flailing hair and arms, the rest of his band mates racing back and forth like mad men.
The songs lifted from their current EP release, “The Wayside,” swirl with psychedelic grunge, creating a wall of sound with biting Stevie Ray Vaughan influenced attacking guitar cutting through like a bitch, punctuating Tyler Bryant’s melodic rock vocals.
Tyler is a pretty 25-year-old boy rocker with a Jim Morrison vibe about him, who if this was the 1970s or 80s, would be on the cover of every music magazine on the shelves. This band badly needs THE one big hit song which eludes them, to propel them to top billing and big record sales.
Much of their material blends together into a heady mix that’s exciting, but not that memorable. They did turn in a scorching cover of the blues classic, Arthur Crudup’s, “That’s All Right (Mama),” which was Elvis Presley’s first single back in 1954, long before any of the guys in the two band’s on tonight were born.
During the interval, before Cadillac 3 hit the stage, a couple of songs from Crobot blast from the PA stack; another band with terrific stage presence that I am sad to say was sadly lacking from Cadillac 3.
The close to sell out audience of circa 3,000 people was buzzing with anticipation as the trio ambled on to the stage. Kelby Ray sitting down to play his lap steel, Jaren Johnston stood glued to his mike stand as they played “Bury Me in My Boots,” to open their set to an ecstatic audience reaction.
Jaren paid tribute to the support band and told us: “Tyler Bryant is a dirty son of a bitch who I have known for nine years. He’s nearly as good as me.” The band were note perfect, Jaren’s vocals spot on. They didn’t mess about between songs and opted for a quick fire delivery as they gave us, “Slide,” “Soundtrack To A Six Pack,” and “Tennessee Mojo,” in quick succession.
The problem was, there was little or no movement on stage and worse than that; no excitement at all. They just played note perfect versions of their songs about good times, hard drinking and partying, with the only movement on stage when they downed a bottle of beer, or turned their backs on the audience to face the guitar amps. Something we said, lads?
C3’s Jaren Johnston’s only deviation from his preferred stage position behind the mike or facing the cabs, was to amble over to Neil Mason and lean against the drums while downing a beer. Jaren and Neil did summon up the energy to wander over to the static lap steel during a rather fine solo from Kelly Ray.
This emphasised the stark differences in approach between the support act and the headliners. While the fire and heart burn bright like a Supernova with Tyler and the boys, Cadillac 3 looked like they’d be far more at home in a small bar with their mates.
Their set progressed in an uneven style, lifting for numbers like “I’m Southern,” and “Whiskey Soaked Redemption.” Only to then drop down to second gear, in fact; I heard one guy in the crowd say to his partner, “Oh great, yet another song about whiskey and the South.” That perfectly sums up my feelings. While it is undeniable that the quality of the songs individually are great, there’s a sameness that while given nothing to watch on stage, does start to pale.
The only moment of real excitement came during the encore, as Tyler Bryant and The Shakedown joined the headliners to blast through “Honey Bee,” not the Rhett Atkins/Ben Hayslip-penned 2011 Blake Shelton cut, or the old rock and roll track of the same name, but a cover penned and recorded by the great Tom Petty, prompting a mass dancing throng out front.
After Tyler and his comrades left the stage, “White Lightning,” and “The South,” both had the kind of energy and exuberance that much of the earlier set lacked – proving that the Cadillac 3 are more than capable of producing the goods. Sadly they didn’t do that for the bulk of their set. It was Tyler Bryant’s night, for sure. One to watch, literally.
Words & Photos: Andy Pickard