It was an interesting walk to the theater last night. I could hear the cheers of avid basketball fans as I passed 4th Street Live from Muhammad Ali Blvd. The cheers soon transitioned into the excited banter of Daughtry fans waiting in front the doors of Louisville Palace. I didn’t know what kind of crowd to anticipate with the 6:09 tip off of the Final Four rivalry between Louisville and Kentucky, but to my surprise I joined a sold out crowd in the historic theater. A sold out crowd that was not decked out in your typical concert attire, but rather spirited red and blue like they were attending an elaborate pep rally hosted by a multi-platinum selling rock band.
The opening act on the bill was singer/songwriter Mike Sanchez. Sanchez put on a brief but impressive set, ending with an exuberant rendition of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” Sanchez graciously thanked the crowd before exiting the stage to sign autographs and take photos at the merchandise table in the lobby.
If you’ve ever enjoyed an event at Louisville Palace, you are well aware of the pleasantly breathtaking atmosphere. Second opening act, SafetySuit, quickly shifted the vibe from elegant to “rock.” The Nashville-native band played several of their hits including “Let Go,” “These Times” and an upbeat rock cover of “Hallelujah” made famous by Jeff Buckley.
I really enjoyed SafetySuit’s set. It was laden with guitar solos and rock anthem moments from the knees. They brought a high level of intensity and strong presence to the stage. As a matter of fact, the lead guitarist needed a towel to dry his face halfway through their second song. Before their song “These Times,” lead singer Doug Brown said,
“If you take anything from us tonight, remember that if you’re going through a rough time, it will always pass.”
SafetySuit finished their set with their hit “Stay”  which is known for reaching #1 on VH1’s Top 20 Countdown. Brown took a tour around the Louisville Palace crowd, singing amongst the fans and taking novelty photos as he went. All in all, it was an impressive set and left the Louisville crowd ready for the headliner.
Daughtry took the stage at just a tick past 9 o’clock. A monochrome video of the band walking in the desert and a classic muscle car revving faster and faster was projected onto a white curtain until the curtain finally dropped, revealing the band segueing into their song “Renegade.” Chris Daughtry was dressed head to toe in his traditional black on black. Chris was sporting black leather shoes that had noticeable specks of mud on them, almost as if to show that he remembers where he comes from.
The stage was dressed in a cool and literal “rock” theme. The side walls and stairs on the stage were made to look like boulders and concrete, while a large red “Daughtry” banner draped down the middle of the backdrop.
The band played the title track of their new album Break the Spell and followed it with “Feels Like Tonight”  and the first single off the new record “Crawling Back to You.”  The opening hits had the Louisville Palace crowd singing word for word. If you’ve never heard Daughtry before, I’d best describe them as having the intensity of Fuel or Chevelle, while still having a poise and emotional range comparable to Shinedown and Three Days Grace.
Just two songs in, Chris was already having to lose the leather jacket.
“Louisville, KY! How you doin’ tonight? You look gorgeous,” said Daughtry.
Daughtry played the second single off of their new album, “Outta My Head,”  for which they just finished shooting a music video. This song is likely my favorite off of the new album. It’s a very catchy song that hits hard, is laced with an infectious drumbeat and contains the perfect amount rebel yells from Chris.
“It’s good to be back in Kentucky! Gotta catch my breath, feel like I’m getting old,” joked Chris.
Chris appears to wear his heart on his sleeve from time to time with songs like “Start of Something Good”  and “September,” but none more so than when he performed the band’s hit single “What About Now.” 
The stage went dark and a piano solo began, followed by a video montage in the backdrop showing images from around the world depicting poverty, homelessness, war and illness. A spotlight fell on Chris as he played a slow guitar and sang
“…Love will find you.
What about now?
What about today?
What if you're making me all that I was meant to be?
What if our love never went away..?”
At the end of the song and video montage, the screen read that $1 from each ticket sold to tonight’s show would go to support Malaria No More  – an organization fighting to eliminate malaria deaths in Africa, which kills nearly half a million people there a year. The message was met with great applause from the audience.
“You guys are awesome. The loudest show of the tour so far. You win,” said Chris. “This is a beautiful room by the way.”
Chris was of course referencing the historic Louisville Palace . If you haven’t had the opportunity to experience it, you are missing out on a real work of Louisville art.
“I’m going to do this next song just the way I wrote it, just me and my guitar,” said Chris. “It was about 7 years ago, I was sitting on my couch and I probably banged it out in about 15 minutes.”
Chris went on to tell the story of how the song “Home”  helped catapult him to fame some 7 years ago. The song was the band’s second single off of their title album and peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Before playing their song “Over You,”  Chris said,
“I’m going to need some help with this one. I’m gonna stop singing at some point and if you aren’t, than it’s going to be really awkward.”
The crowd had been on its feet since the curtain dropped and had no problem obliging Chris’s request.
Daughtry kept the crowd going with their song “No Surprise”  and just when I thought they couldn’t possibly pick up the tempo anymore, they covered Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ Down a Dream.” The cover was reminiscent enough of the classic track to satisfy the oldest fan and Daughtry had no problem making it their own.
The final song of their set was introduced with a little background.
“I grew up in a small town in North Carolina, Lasker. You haven’t heard of it. A town of about 100 people. To this day, there are probably still 100 people,” says Chris.
I checked. He’s not kidding Lasker, NC is small. It doesn’t even have its own Wikipedia page. However small the town, it inspired their second album Leave This Town and one of my favorite songs “September,”  which was played to a slideshow of various Daughtry family photos.
Daughtry left the stage for only a moment, as they were brought back almost immediately for an encore by raucous applause and cheers from the Louisville fans. The band re-took the stage with impressive energy. Chris gave me an emphatic fist bump from the stage as he belted out the chorus to “Rebel Yell” by Billy Idol.
“More, More, More!”
The band couldn’t leave without playing their #1 overall hit “It’s Not Over.”  The final song lifted them up ten notches last night, just as it did for them in 2006. Cardinal and Big Blue Nation alike were jumping and screaming the lyrics to their favorite song. Chris introduced all of the members of the band before they all bowed out to an enormous ovation.
Some rock bands will just pound you until your ears bleed, while others may border on the edge of pop. Those kinds of bands seem to lack identity and just do what the record label tells them will sell records. Daughtry appears to know exactly who they are and perform to the beat of their own drum. They transition perfectly between hard-hitters and rock ballads in a way that keeps you juiced throughout the show, while also showing you who they really are.
Chris Daughtry is seemingly a million miles away from the audition stage of American Idol. At 32, with only 7 years of stardom experience, Daughtry performs like a band that has been doing this for decades with no intention of slowing down. Of course, when you’re able to make performing as fun as they do, why would you?
With their third album, Daughtry had some fairly lofty expectations to meet. Break the Spell is as good if not better than Daughtry and Leave This Town. With the Break the Spell Tour, Daughtry has proven they can rock with the best of them. Hell, if you can sell out the Louisville Palace during a Louisville vs. Kentucky Final Four NCAA game, who knows? This may only be the start of something good.
Photos: In-text, Michael Windle; Slideshow, Allison Ray