Alabama Shakes live in London
- By Greg Rose -
- May 04, 2012
Have you heard that Alabama Shakes song? Of course you've heard it. The southern sensations have been everywhere lately. Last night, though, they were in Brixton to play their biggest ever London gig. After a blistering Jools Holland performance, their album smashing into the charts (remember those?) at number three, and universal praise, could Brittany Howard measure up live onstage?
Brixton Electric was an interesting choice for the gig, with its airport security entrance and ugly nightclub neons hiding a beautiful theatre inside. The crowd was a mixture of early die-hards, intrigued onlookers and the three-gigs-a-year crowd. Alabama Shakes tackled them ably from the off with the superior 'Goin' To The Party'. This was cleverly followed by a rip-roaring new song called 'Making Me Itch', all breakneck yelps and driving drums.
Then came that song - 'Hold On' - the one you caught your mum humming the other day. It's brilliant, a classy, bluesy stomp that's worth the admission fee alone. The band couldn't keep this up, surely?
In a word, no. A few dud tunes caused the chatting in the crowd to rise, especially during a particularly woeful 'Boys & Girls' - ballads are not yet Alabama Shakes' forté despite Howard's thundering lungs. Yet, every time you get bored and allow your mind to drift, they ripped you back to the present with another slick song. Even within individual tracks there were peaks of excitement and troughs of tedium.
The band match this peculiar mixture, a ragtag bunch who come up with some brilliant moments but often sink into the background. Howard herself is a powerhouse frontwoman. She is the focus of everything, from furious guitar solos to utterly stunning vocals.If there is a better new singer in the world right now, point us to them.
But some of the songs don't measure up. Oddly, you're often left wishing Brittany had better songs to sing than the ones she has penned herself. On record, the 35 minutes of 'Boys & Girls' rockets by. Live, the hour-long set starts to drag.
Bundles of potential, but Alabama Shakes are by no means the finished product. Still, if they were, where would they go from here? As it stands, it will be fascinating to see what they do next.
Image by freeloosedirt on Flickr