|Alabama Shakes press photo. I'd personally love to hear more from the doggy.|
Brooklyn Vegan, Zales, Starbucks' CD aisle, MTV, David Letterman’s birthday episode and my friend Sarah have all been tirelessly lending hands, with attempt to pull me up and into, the Alabama Shakes bandwagon. I’ve always thought as pompous as Pitchfork is, if they rate something above a 7.11 (Boys & Girls 7.8) I have a patriotic duty to scope it. After seeing the much-heralded band at the Music Hall of Williamsburg the other night, I too, am a believer.
Not since Hall & Oates has “Rock and Soul” rocked me…with...so much…soul.
Once known as only The Shakes, this Alabamian sensation is lead by thick and fro’d lead singer Brittany Howard, who is as saucy as a trip to Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Q, without a napkin. Her sassiness ensued early into the set, before introducing “Boys & Girls,” a song about boys and girls being friends, she claimed the fallacy that this couldn’t happen was some, and I quote, “that'ssomebullllllllshiiiiiit.”
The voluptuous songstress is grounded, in an electrical context, by bassist Zac Crockrell, who proves all guys named Zach, with a “c,” have big beards; guitarist Heath Fogg who didn’t do anything overly noteworthy; and, the most intently focused drummer I’ve seen, Steve Johnson.
There is much for the senses at an Alabama Shakes show. The sold out crowd of a couple hundred was loud and raucous, and could easily have passed for a mid-sized arena to hipsters passing by. The band seemingly can do no wrong up there, and it would be easy to take a naysayers outlet here, but the aura of soul and passion for music is conveyed with honest-to-goodness ease without awe-shucks shoulder shrugging. Like if Peyton and Eli Manning had an African American sister.
With all the hype, the furry and budding momentum the Shakes have going for them right now, I’d think it would be easy to placate the audience with grandstanding gesticulations and disingenuous discourse. It doesn’t seem to be the case. The four members feed off each other well, and when Howard picks her spots, she brings the house down, but doesn’t overuse it as if Staples gave her an easy button. That’d be too easy, and there’s no soul in simplicity.
I think she best described her mentality on their concerts in an interview with music blog The South Rail:
- Wear your dancing shoes
- Bring a sweat rag
- Leave your fear
- It’s going to be a different kind of night
It really was, is and will be again, a different kind of night. They are special. At their best, they sound like a rockin’ version of Amy Winehouse. At their worst, they sound much better than what that image conjures.
When they come back to town, you’d better clear your schedule, grab a cold one and make it to the show. The good news is sweat rags (simply) make the best napkins.
I Found You
Boys & Girls
Making Me Itch
Rise to the Sun
You Ain’t Alone
On Your Way
I Ain’t the Same