In recent years, there has been quite the resurgence of R&B and soul oriented bands both here domestically in the United States and abroad, including the UK-based St. Paul and the Broken Bones hitting the nation’s capital.
From Frank Ocean to the Suffers, from Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds to Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas, these bands all excel at transporting their fan base to a vintage era of music that at one moment can have folks rump-shaking and soul clapping while slow dancing with their sweetheart and swooning the next.
Count Birmingham, Alabama’s own St. Paul and the Broken Bones as one of the premier acts plying their wares within this particular genre these days to much fanfare and a relatively generous amount of success.
Lead singer Paul Janeway and the boys recently stopped the tour bus outside the hallowed halls of the historic 9:30 Club in Washington DC for two nights of sold-out rock and roll bliss and National Rock Review was on hand to capture the revelry.
Considering the sheer amount of confidence and swagger Janeway exudes whenever the band performs live you”d think the band has been in the at the music game for decades. The truth of the matter is St. Paul and the Broken Bones are just beyond their infancy regarding their career.
The band currently only has two full-length LPs under the belt to date, their 2014 debut Half the City and their sophomore follow-up, the critically well-received Sea of Noise released earlier this year.
However, from the reception the band received as Janeway strutted out onto the stage wearing a purple cape most emperors from Rome”s era of antiquity would have likely invaded barbarian lands to obtain, you would think that St. Paul and the Broken Bones had been putting out music alongside the likes of some their heroes such as Otis Redding, James Brown, and Al Green since the 1970s.
The live performance playbook for retro soul acts like St. Paul and the Broken Bones is a fairly simple one; deliver a setlist that is chock full of numbers that force the audience to dance their butts off while balancing all that grinding and glorious sweating with moments filled with tremendous emotion and heartfelt reflection.
Janeway and company carried out this precise game plan with such precision even Vince Lombardi of the Packers would have been impressed with the level of execution they carried out with on the field, I mean the stage.
Whether it was floor stomping numbers such as “Tears in the Diamond,” “Call Me” and the show-stopping “Sanctify,” or torch song material such as “Waves” or “I’m Torn Up,” St. Paul and the Broken Bones had the 9:30 crowd literally wrapped around their instruments from first note to last.
Credit the band for also taking brilliant runs at a few non-traditional covers and for also making these songs their own. Has there ever been a more “horny” cover of Radiohead’s “The National Anthem” ever attempted?
An upbeat and downright playful take on Van Morrison’s “I’ve Been Working” as well as a vampy rendition of David Bowie”s “Moonage Dream,” with the help of show opener Diane Coffee, also went on to provide some of the the night”s highest moments.
Before having Coffee jump on stage with them, the band teased Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.” However, just as the Southern staple began to gain steam, Janeway stopped the shenanigans abruptly informing the crowd, “We’re from friggin Birmingham, and we’ve heard that song in literally every damn bar we’ve ever played in Alabama. So we’re never going to play it, unless of course, we’re overseas, things work differently over there.”
At one point in the evening, it seemed easy to imagine St. Paul and the Broken Bones playing to a much larger audience than the 1,500 or so souls contained within the belly of the Washington DC’s most revered live music venues. After all, they did just sell out two nights at the 9:30 fairly quickly right?
As it turned out, Janeway himself must have been thinking the same thing as the frontman addressed this very issue stating at one point musing, “Management came to us and asked if we’d be interested in playing a bigger venue in DC and we said fuck that; we love the 9:30.”
As you might imagine, the lead singer’s proclamation of love for the historic venue and its patrons was met with a roaring of applause and catcalls from the sold out crowd, who wished the performance could have lasted much longer than its just over 90-minute running time.
St. Paul and the Broken Bones aren’t out there trying to reinvent the soul and R&B wheel. The fact is the band seems more than okay with simply jumping on the bus and taking each and every last fan of the genre on a cosmic journey with a crap ton of sublime music and more than a dash of fun along for the ride. Count me in.
Be sure to pick up St. Paul and the Broken Bones latest release Sea of Noise and, if it all possible, see these lads from the Southland do their thing up on stage.
Should you not leave one of their transcendent live performances smiling and wanting to keep shaking your ass into the wee hours of the morning, I’ll personally provide you with a refund.*
*restrictions may apply
Event Date: 16-Nov-2016