Alabama Shakes w/ Chicano Batman
Marymoor Park, Redmond, WA

Ok – so that title might be a bit of an overstatement. Because without powerhouse vocalists like Aretha there might not be a Brittany Howard, and thus no Alabama Shakes. But when one audience member behind me said that during the show, it did stop and make me think: is Howard poised to become the next woman’s woman voice of a generation? I wouldn’t bet against her.

Turquoise Gibson in hand, Howard led Alabama Shakes through a soul-stirring 90-minute set, fluctuating between awkward and gut-wrenching, all the while being exactly who she is. The rest of the band, a rag-tag group of musicians who have been playing together since the backwoods days (which wasn’t all that long ago) expertly support Howard with a kind of quiet stoicism. They are a strong band, one that knows their sound, knows their power, knows they don’t need to show off to show you a good time. This, I think, is the secret of Alabama Shakes. Two albums in, and it still feels like they’re playing for themselves, having hit upon a sound that is all their own. This is a band that is humble, but not oblivious.

Alabama Shakes sound like nothing else, yet seem familiar: there is blues, there is soul, there is psychedelic fuzz. But most of all, there is Howard’s voice. There is the screeching opening to “Don’t Wanna Fight,” the shredding throatiness, the screwed-up facial expressions, the full-body groove of a young artist with something to say and a million stories to share. Her wailing on “Gimme All Your Love” is matched only in brilliance by the slow-burn, rhythmic melody and near-epic breakdown that closes out the track. During the romantically inclined “Be Mine” and “I Still Ain’t Got What I Want” Howard puts down her guitar to preach to the crowd, with her old-soul honesty and heart on sleeve, winning over even the coldest of hearts. Seemingly unstoppable, the nature of Alabama shakes is grounded in lyrical storytelling, swerving between tenderness and rip-roaring southern rock. And live, the music is even more powerful.

Openers Chicano Batman – a four-piece outfit from LA – played a set full of spacey Chicano/Latin jams with surf-rock flair and vintage rhythms. Their 70’s tuxedoes, sans jackets, added the perfect flair to their retro set of slinky psychedelic fun.

Check the Alabama Shakes tour schedule for a show near you here.

Review by Stephanie Dore
Photos by Sunny Martini

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