2012 threw up a few gigs that I found myself having great expectations for, and the Alabama Shakes was definitely one of them. It was a band that by the day that the concert rolled around I was genuinely excited to see and could think of nothing else and couldn’t wait to get to the venue. When I arrived at Paradiso and was greeted by the sold out lights, this just added to what I was hoping for from the show.
Earlier in the year, as I strolled across the paddock at Rock Werchter, I was not upset I was only able to catch the last couple of songs of the Alabama Shakes set, and that was only due to the fact that both a good friend and myself already knew that we would be seeing the band again soon in Amsterdam. That being said I did really enjoy what I saw, and it did wet my whistle for the concert to come and deep down I knew that seeing these guys in Paradiso would kill 100 times over anything a festival could produce.
There was always a risk that with only one album, “Boys and Girls” (of note) under their belt that they might not have the runs on the board to keep me interested for the whole show or possibly they just wouldn’t have enough tracks to play to satisfy a sold out Paradiso crowd. The counter balance to this was that I had a very strong feeling that these guys would put on a great performance live.
Pre show music that is played sometimes sets the mood for what to expect from the show, and on this night as I drained a beer and chatted away, Credence Clearwater Revival belted out and it somehow this felt just felt right for the show we were about to witness.
The band entered without much fuss or fanfare, took their instruments, thanked the crowd and then jumped straight into their live performance we had all been waiting for. Right from the start the way that Brittany Howard sings the lyrics is very reminiscent of all the soul greats, there were moments of Mavis Staples, and a little Otis Redding and more then just a little Tina Turner. And whilst you can see all these similarities to some fantastic artist that have come before, the Alabama Shakes, really has a sound of their own.
Brittany sings with a power that is impressive and to go with that voice she can really belt the living life out of her guitar too. They play their music like all good soul and rock and roll bands should, they play it with no fuss and yet it still infects you, you cant help but feel the music.
As I mentioned these guys have a really soul aspect to their music, the other key element is really just “full out” rock and roll, and it is played like rock and roll should be, hard and energetic and with lots of passion. Also if I am being totally honest it doesn’t feel like it is super complex music, but it does hit a chord. Zac Cockrell on bass guitar just lays down some fantastic fat beats and he shows a real enjoyment in what he is doing. Throw in some odd organ action and some skin splitting drumming and you have got yourself one hell of a show.
These guys played everything they had, and it only felt like 45 minutes worth but it was probably more. At the end of that time I felt like they could have gone on for another two hours, I mean they were really hitting their straps. God damn them why didn’t they have more tunes to play? When you see a performance like this it is probably the best part of getting on to a band early, it means that they can only play longer and longer the next time you see them.
It’s probably not right to pick out one track but for me, the track on the night that epitomized their performance and their sound was “Maken me itch”, but truth be told all the tracks were fantastic.
The music that they started to play really just hit a chord with me. This would be a theme throughout the gig, there was not one moment that I wasn’t enjoying a song. And I found myself smiling for the whole show long, I didn’t want them to finish and I cant wait to see them again. I could not have asked for anything more.