Zakk Wylde’s Book of Shadows II North American tour blew into the Windy City for a night of pure, unadulterated rock.

24-June-2016: This is a show that certainly started as it meant to go on. If ever there was a case for getting to a show early to catch the openers, this was it. It was great to see such a strong showing from the Chicago fans who were out in force on a Sunday evening, waiting for the doors to open.

First to take to the stage was Jared James Nichols, who appeared to enjoy every moment of getting to open for such an iconic rocker. Sheer enjoyment shone out from Nichols’ face for the duration of his set.

Nichols brought his brand of Blues Power”, producing an impressively big sound for just a three-piece. It was a tight performance, including songs from his album, Old Glory & the Wild Revival, along with a rocking cover of Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen.” His wears his music influences on his sleeve, incorporating 70s rock with a healthy dose of blues.

It’s only when you watch Nichols intently on the guitar, that you realize he doesn’t use a pick, unusual given the high energy nature of his music. This technique gives his playing a unique character and tone. It is, however, surprising considering the ferocity of his play style that he has any skin left on the fingers of his right hand after a show!

Next up was Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown. Bryant is another young musician who has clearly had music coursing through his veins from a young age. He was born in Texas and subsequently relocated to Nashville – and you can hear the influence of both those locations (along with some Chicago blues influence) in his playing.

His high-energy set steamrollered its way ahead, its raw power and emotion pouring from the stage and into the audience. Graham Whitford put in a solid performance on guitar, and it was great to see Caleb Crosby getting out from behind his drumkit to join the band up front for an energetic finale.

Both opening acts brought great talent and energy to the proceedings and have opened for an impressive list of well-known artists. At this rate, it should only be a matter of time before they are the ones headlining venues the size of Concord Music Hall.

The excitement and anticipation amongst the audience were palpable as they awaited the main event. After a brief set change, it was time for Zakk Wylde. For those who are supporters of Wylde’s Black Label Society material, you will find this a slightly different experience. As with his first solo album, Book of Shadows II showcases a softer, more thoughtful Zack, highlighting both his vocal and guitar chops perfectly.

His set began with a ten-minute version of “Sold My Soul” with a powerful, extended guitar solo in which he lets loose. He played certain passages at breakneck speed, while throwing in some acrobatics like playing with his teeth and behind his head.

However, this was by no means a shred fest, and many of the other songs demonstrated the soulful side to Zack’s playing with a number of melodic solos incorporating long notes dripping with vibrato and tailing off into feedback.

Zach has surrounded himself with a talented bunch of musicians for this tour, not least, multi-instrumentalist Dario Lorina who spent time playing keyboard/piano and sharing guitar duties with the main man whilst John DeServio on bass and Jeff Fabb on drums ensured a rock solid foundation.

The setlist for the show was made up solely of Wylde’s two solo albums, and did not cover any of his BLS catalog, not that the audience seemed to mind at all. They were there to see Wylde, and he knows how to entertain his faithful. Wylde seems to enjoy his solo outing and put on just the kind performance that you would expect from a modern day guitar icon.

The Book Of Shadows II tour continues through to September and is worth checking out. Just be sure to get there early to appreciate the lineup in full.

Zakk Wylde
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Tyler Bryant And The Shakedowns
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Jared James Nichols
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Concord Music Hall
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