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It's all about the audience connection

Alabama Shakes
Marquee Theatre
Tempe, AZ
April 8, 2015
Alabama Shakes Alabama Shakes

Review and photos by Mary Andrews

Alabama Shakes brought their new tour promoting their forthcoming album, "Sound & Color" and made a stop in Arizona on their way to a much-anticipated Coachella. Brittany Howard fronts the band and she characteristically exposes herself "commando" style! This show was no exception.

The new music does not have the same soul influences that the album "Boys & Girls" possesses, but instead, exhibits more of the rock influences that Howard had growing up. That is Led Zeppelin, Missy Elliott, the Ramones, David Bowie, and AC/DC to name a few. Howard denies the Muscle Shoals sound as having a direct influence on her music even though it is 40 miles from her hometown of Athens, AL. Having said that, the new music blended with the older music seamlessly.

The other band members are drummer, Steve Johnson, bass man, Zac Cockrell, guitarist, Heath Fogg. These are the original band members that created their sound and they seem to fit Brittany like a glove without being flashy, but still highly competent. On this tour, three background singers are employed with an additional two instrumentalists. The band wandered on stage in t-shirts and jeans as if they were playing in the neighborhood bar. There is little acknowledgement that there is a packed house cheering as soon as there a slight glimpse of them. Brittany wore a pattern dress with black leggings. She sported a new hair-do that has been buzzed into a compact wedge. It would really make no difference what they were wearing or how they looked. From the first note, Howard casts her spell and everyone was hooked.

The first thing that one notices about Brittany is how very young she is, but her voice told us that she has a very old soul. It is rare to find an entertainer these days who works "it" the way she does. She is a woman of few spoken words. She has said in past interviews that "Latching on to a feeling, riding it, trying not to come out of it. You stop thinking, you're just performing – that's the spirit world. Sometimes between songs I have nothing to say. It's not because I'm not appreciative of the applause, the love. I'm just still on it, and I'm trying to keep on it." It's hard to see how she relives these emotions night after night, show after show. Otis Redding must be in some past life of hers. She really seemed to be in her own universe by the time she put the guitar down. The more the audience responded to her, the more consumed she was by the music and the moment. It is all about the audience connection. Watching Brittany Howard is better than taking drugs!

Howard used more falsettos and pushed her voice more than on the previous album. The songs are autobiographical in nature. They're stories, thoughts, and probable imaginings. In one interview, she revealed that "On Your Way" was written as a lament to the death of her 13-year old sister. The song's performance was as revealing and as raw as anything I've witnessed on stage.

Their new album, "Sound & Color" is due out April 21, 2015. Catch them at Coachella over the next two weekends.
Set List:
1. Rise to the Sun
2. Dunes
3. Heartbreaker
4. Always Alright
5. Hold On
6. Miss You
7. I Found You
8. This Feeling
9. Gimme All Your Love
10. Be Mine
11. Joe
12. On Your Way
13. Gemini

14. Don't Wanna Fight 15. You Ain't Alone
16. Sound & Color
17. Over My Head

Related articles:

Alabama Shakes / Patterson Hood / Hurray For the Riff Raff - Concert review - Birmingham, AL June 2013
Alabama Shakes - Concert review - Milwaukee, WI March 2012
Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls Album review

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Alabama Shakes Alabama Shakes
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