Albama Shakes live at the Bitterzoet, Amsterdam.
Concert review by Manou Chen.
If I’m honest, listening to Alabama Shakes’ debut album Boys & Girls initially gave me the impression that the hype machine had been running over hours. Boys & Girls stands-out through its authenticity and its candor, but other than that it’s not so different from the many fine blues albums that are released each year by bands we will never know the name of. The glorification of the band from Athens, AL started as SXSW, so I guessed that an overwhelming live performance must explain Alabama Shakes’ status as the next-best-thing. Last week in a packed Bitterzoet this assumption turned out half-true.
Brittany Howard is an exceptional talent. She has the soul of Billie Holliday, the power of Mamie Smith and the lung capacity of Ruth Brown. On top of that she plays a mean blues rock guitar and has the mimics of Mick Jagger, including touting lips. It’s not the only aspect of Alabama Shakes that reminds me of the Stones. During their straight-out rock songs we can hear the sticky fingering of Keith Richards and Mick Taylor and many songs have insinuatingly quiet middle eights, typical of the greatest rock’n’roll band of the world.
Even though the ecstatic crowd in Bitterzoet will disagree, Alabama Shakes’ performance wasn’t a total triumph. The build up of the gig was a bit odd. The set list started with the soulful low tempo song Goin’ To The Party then erupted with the raw energy of Making Me Itch, Hold On Play and Hang Loose. Alabama Shakes manage to maintain the energy level for quite while, but after eleven or so songs I find me self thinking: ‘wow, this is great, when will it be over.’ Halfway through the show, the familiar blues rock chord-sequences start to become a bit dull.
In conclusion, Alabama Shakes are a stunning live act that would have made a bigger impression with a shorter set, for instance leaving out the redundant Led Zeppelin cover as an encore. Also, apart from Howard the rest of the band are great, but have the allure of a backing band. She is the one giving Alabama Shakes their explosive mojo. You can imagine some greedy industry people already planning a flourishing solo-career for this former mailwoman.
In Holland we have Noorderslag and in America (Austin Texas) they have South By Southwest (SXSW). Who impresses at Noorderslag becomes known in the Netherlands while those who impresses in Austin often receive world wide fame. I have read the various news reports and blogs from SXSW2012 and the same name continues to pop up … Alabama Shakes!
This new band originating, from Athens Alabama, created a stir at SXSW 2012 with repeat comments as to their exciting stage presence when playing songs from their debut album ‘Boys & Girls’. This album is full of classic southern soul as the lead singer Brittany Howard seems to have more soul in her big toe than many of todays’ R&B singers have in their whole body. When listening to their album I am reminded of Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings with some rock ‘n roll blues that let you hear Janis Joplin in her heyday, or the unfortunately infamous band Detroit Cobras. Having said that, it is certainly not innovative, but as the passion and soul explodes the strength of the album becomes evident through its simplicity and unpolished sound. Since SXSW 2012 the band, and the album, are getting their share of media hype and while that is good for them it shouldn’t be interpreted by the fans as the new album that changes soul music. It is an excellent album to listen to and it is worth spinning at your next party as next to the music everyone will love the impressive voice of Brittany Howard. So don’t’ miss a beat and check them out – fuzz on!
For those who want to read the original post in Dutch click on this krentenuitdepop.