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Monday, July 11, 2011

The Critical Darlings turn it up a notch

Almost two and a half years ago, back when I was still a bright-eyed newcomer to the Athens music scene, I stumbled across a benefit concert featuring the band Chris McKay and the Critical Darlings. It was quite an exciting experience and inadvertently led to the creation of this very blog. Since then, the band has disappeared from and reemerged in the scene several times and has gained an influx of new members, held together by the ever-enthusiastic Chris McKay. After over a year of waiting to see their latest incarnation in action, I finally got my chance last Saturday night.

Now a 5-piece band, the Critical Darlings kicked off the show with their song The Only Way, followed by a set of new tunes peppered here and there with old favorites. New or old, though, their sound was not quite the same creature it was when we last met. While still retaining their beloved classic rock style, the band's tunes had a stronger, more modern, and sometimes even darker feel to them that thrilled me to the core. The keyboardist Kate Powell's backing vocals seemed have had a heavy influence on this change. Their take on the new song Hold On, which I remember voting for back when the band was enlisting the fans' help to choose their latest hits, was quite awesome. Then, in the middle of the set, they surprised the fans by alternating to give Kate the lead vocal spot for a lovely and rather dark, theatrical number. I've gotta say, I definitely like where the Critical Darlings are taking their sound.

As always, the band's famous energy engulfed the room. Chris hammed it up throughout the set and even fistbumped members of the Athens band in the front row as he played. Kate stuck one leg up onto the keyboard while her fingers danced over the keys. Just wild! The crowd, in turn, grooved to the music, some of them even waltzing to a few of the tunes. Rounding out the set, they finished their trademark song Happy Here and Now with a surprise burst of confetti that fluttered over the fans as they played their final note. What a fun show!

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