Moore Theatre, Seattle, WA
When I think about how to describe Brittany Howard’s solo performance—which was far from solo—those famous Curtis Mayfield lyrics come to mind. “I’m givin’ him somethin’ he can feel/To let him know this love is real,” sang En Vogue…and queen Aretha herself. And I don’t know if that’s how Howard feels, or anywhere close to it, but the love in Seattle’s Moore Theatre throughout her show was indescribably real.
Howard, who came to our attention via the brilliant and timely Alabama Shakes, arrived in Seattle at the tail end of the US tour in support of her September 2019 solo release, Jaime. It’s a personal record that Howard notes she wrote as a process of healing, named for her sister who passed away as a teenager. But it’s not about her sister.
“I’m pretty candid about myself and who I am and what I believe. Which, is why I needed to do it on my own,” she notes. And, as I’m sure the packed house would agree—thank goodness she did.
These stories of hope, heartache, resistance, and harsh truths come alive when Howard is performing them in person, her expressive delivery adding the emphasis one needs to truly feel the impact of every lyric, every chord, every beat.
Backed by an 8-piece band and surrounded on stage by a sort of Parthenon of white, fabric columns, Howard arrived decked in a trademark wrap, sparkling through heavy fog, as the set kicked off with the three-song span of “He Loves Me,” “Georgia,” and the heavily-rotating “Stay High.” The crowd was immediately on their feet, hands in the air, singing along and dancing in the aisles as Howard emoted all over the stage, her face scrunching into joy and pain with equal abandon, her arms pointing and clapping, her voice hitting notes that are near-impossible to believe.
A cover of Prince’s “The Breakdown” had the room struck silent before she ripped the mic off the stand for “Tomorrow,” to play with the crowd. But she was just getting started. “Ya like how I get y’all charged up so I can do a slow song,” she said, “I don’t make no sense.” And the solo, acoustic of “Short and Sweet” was just that, complete with a tiny false start to cheers of support.
Now midway through the show, Howard pauses to introduce her band members and rile up the crowd, encouraging everyone to get on their feet again, noting “you are what I’m all about. I’m gonna give you all my energy,” and the crowd rose and gave theirs in return. Her band, let it be noted, was spectacular in their own right, and she gave them their due, as they showcased solos and she let them shine throughout the show.
From the deep, truth-bearing groove of “Goat Head,” to the set closer “13th Century Metal,” Howard tears it up some insane combination of classic rockstar-meets-bandleader-meets-punk-soul-princess. And we haven’t even gotten to the four-track encore.
That encore kicked off with the unrecorded track “Bring Your Love to Me,” a soulful, gut-wrenching track that I can only hope gets released sooner rather than later. This was followed by a bombastic cover of The Beatles’ “Revolution” and Howard’s “History Repeats,” both loud and energetic and leading to a blushing Howard covering her face with her jacket in appreciation.
But it was the closer “Run to Me” that truly brought the house down. “It’s an interesting choice, I’m aware,” she said, explaining that she wrote the song to herself when she wasn’t feeling strong and needed to pull herself up.” And that emotional pull. That something. We could all feel it.
Review and photos by Stephanie Dore