Alabama Shakes – Orpheum Theatre – July 23, 2013
Making a third visit to Vancouver in just over a year, Alabama Shakes are building a solid audience in the city as more and more people hear about the group. I was encouraged to attend by a friend who raved about their previous shows so they had a lot to live up and they delivered.
This night’s gig was originally set for the Vogue Theatre but due to overwhelming demand was switched to the larger Orpheum Theatre and, judging from the thrilled audience at this sold out show, could have moved to an even larger venue. In spite of the larger sized auditorium, the band’s placement of all their equipment and performance within a small oval centre-stage kept the show feeling intimate.
Lead singer Brittany Howard’s stunning vocals also had a way of filling the room to make sure not one nook or cranny was left untouched. Still touring in support of their 2012 critically acclaimed debut album Boys & Girls the non-stop touring and performances has really built a solid live show. The band, Zak Cockrell, Heath Fogg, Steve Johnson and touring member Ben Tanner are terrific musicians and kept the set solid and grounded in their southern rock-soul with a tinge of country. However, there could have been four or forty members behind Brittany, all eyes and ears were on her as she belted song after song and wailed on her own guitar. The power and soul behind her voice carry the weight of someone far beyond their mid-twenties but Howard holds the audience enraptured with her stage presence and ability. The diversity of the audience shows the broad reach of the band’s sound – an updated blend of sounds from the Southern States. Roots of country, rockabilly, soul, blues and rock, all intertwine to create a forest of sound that feels familiar and new at the same time. With just the one album and an EP of material, the set falls just over an hour which left the audience satisfied but clearly ready for more. If Alabama Shakes continue to make regular stops in Vancouver, their fans won’t have to wait too long before they can be filled with soul again.
If you can’t follow Alabama Shakes on tour as they wrap up North America with festival stops in Calgary, Edmonton and Minneapolis before heading to Europe, you can follow them online, on Twitter @alabama_shakes, on Facebook.com/theAlabamaShakes