Last Wednesday (03.14.07) brought one of the more talented and underrated men in show business to The Grog Shop. Chris Daughtry invaded town with his band, appropriately named Daughtry, on a tour stop to support their self-titled debut album. This was not your ordinary show: THIS, was Daughtry!

The evening kicked off with Cinder Road, an up-and-coming band from Baltimore. Their sound was melodic, a bit poppy, and possessed just enough edge to squeeze into the alt. rock category. Their stage presence was surprisingly impressive for a young band. Frontman Mike Ruocco swaggered and posed his way through their 30 minute set with a flair and panache that are rare to find in a frontman as young as he is. His voice did indeed match his swagger. Ruocco’s vocal range was astounding as he belted out ballads as well as faster tunes with ease and clarity. This band did not fall prey to the opening act syndrome; they clearly sounded like headliners. Their sound was perfect and their vocalist was even more perfect, never missing a note. They ripped through songs like “You Complete Me,” “I’m So Sorry” and “Get in, Get out”– the first single from their upcoming album from EMI, slated for release this June. Expect to hear from these guys in the near future.

Next up was NYC based outfit, Eve to Adam. Unfortunately, moments of aural bliss were few and far between with this band. Their sound was terribly muddy. As all too typical for small bar/club shows, the sound guy cranked the drums up way too loud, making it very hard to hear the vocals. The band’s sound was rough and heavy to begin with, but the atrocious mix made it even worse. They evoked an aura of late 80’s sleaze rock without the makeup, and their singer, Taki, lacked the posturing ability of his predecessor of the evening. I really wanted to like this band, as they are one of the struggling music acts one just wants to root for, but this proved impossible. The vocalist struggled as if he had a cold and his voice was scratchy and dull. The ballads fared a tad better. Their strength obviously lies there. For the most part, they sounded amateur and not well rehearsed.

Chris’ ‘American Idol’ celebrity status and the low 400 person capacity of the Grog Shop allowed tickets to sell out in three minutes flat and then went for upwards of $250 a pop in the secondary market. Daughtry’s decision to play intimate venues for his inaugural tour proved a treat for his fans, but did not come without consequences. To call Daughtry’s fans intense does not give them enough credit. People lined up as far as five to six hours before the show to try and secure a prime viewing spot. By the time I got there it was a hard fight to get close enough to get a glimpse of Chris’ bald head.

Chris and company started the night off with “Crashed,” and crash he did, straight into a blistering set of well written and performed tracks. He took the stage in a most unassuming fashion, sitting on a stool and singing for most of the night. It was a laid back atmosphere, and the crowd was even permitted to take as many photos as they wanted. Needless to say, there was a constant barrage of phones and cameras in the air, all attempting to get good shots of Chris and his band.

The incredible timbre of Chris’ voice left me utterly speechless. This live show was raw; the sound was excellent! On his debut album, the tracks are mixed poorly and his strong voice sometimes sounds watered down. In concert it is another story altogether. His voice was mic’ed well and we could hear each note precisely. Needless to say, his voice was impossibly strong and even better than what we heard on American Idol. He blazed through favorites like “Used To” and “Over You” with gusto, never failing for a minute to give the adoring fans the show they desired. He even did an acoustic version of an unreleased track he co-wrote with former Matchbox Twenty frontman Rob Thomas, which was an unbridled show of stellar songwriting. When he began to sing his hit, “It’s Not Over,” the crowd went wild and it was almost impossible to hear Chris for all the fans singing along. He appeased the audience at every turn and encouraged them to sing with him. He finished with the most rocking song on the album, “There and Back” and left the audience screaming for more. This man is destined for the big time. Not to mention that he declined to go down the road most past Idols have taken and actually wrote the bulk of his own music. Screw Jennifer Hudson, Chris Daughtry is the biggest and best talent Idol has produced to date.

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