Friday, 18 May 2012

Alabama Shakes, Central Methodist Church, Manchester

The hype surrounding Alabama Shakes appears to have hit a tipping point. Earlier in the day, a pair of tickets for tonight's gig were going for £80 on ebay; while touts on Oldham Street were snapping at the heels of anyone who had a spare ticket to offload, knowing there was a tidy profit to be made this evening. A serious amount of column inches, a gutsy performance on Later with Jools Holland and being declared the 'Best band on the Planet' by the NME means this is the hottest ticket in town tonight. As with any form of hype, the band have a lot to live up to, especially as the debut album - which promised so much, but only half delivered - has taken a bit of sheen off our own giddy anticipation (see the Velvet Owl Single of the Week at the beginning of January).  Their appearance on Later, however, showcased another side to the band, one which reminded us of those great southern-fried country rock bands of the late sixties/early seventies (The Flying Burritto Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Little Feat) and who were always known for their live performances rather than their recorded output.  Live, the heart and soul of the band is the singer, Brittany Howard. Her incredible voice is a joy to behold, and makes the hairs on the back of the neck stand to attention every time she unleashes the big notes.  Following a shaky start -issues with the PA system means the band are late taking to the stage - it doesn't take long before the band hit their stride. Current single Hold On and standout tracks from the album Hang Loose, I Found You, Rise to the Sun and Be Mine help to turn up the energy levels, and despite a mid-set lull (the ballads got in the way of a rollicking rock and roll set) the band lock into an infectious groove that would have had Lowell George shaking his lilly-white ass. In time, Alabama Shakes may be added to the over-hyped but underachieved list that contains such also-rans as The Vines and The Bravery, but for tonight at least, they made me think that this is how all music should sound. 


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