Reviews AlabamaShakes(JAM)380

Published on September 24th, 2013 | by Jessica Mickey


Review: Alabama Shakes, Pretty Souled Out at the PAC

Alabama Shakes w/ Dexateens, Majestico,
North Charleston Performing Arts Center
Sept. 19

On Thursday evening, Sept. 19, the nationally beloved Alabama Shakes brought their brand of soulful gritty rock to the PAC. As with most rock gigs at the venue, they brought out a wide variety of fans, from middle-aged parents with their children who could’ve been mistaken as ticket holders for the Broadway musical Wicked, to a laid-back fan base of scruffy hipsters, rounded out by a young college crowd in sundresses and polos.

The first of two openers, the Nashville-based Majestico, took the stage, made up of dudes only vaguely identified as Benji Timble (lead guitar/vocals) Fred Reddy (drums), Jitch Mones (keys), Stoney (guitar), and Keaf Tone (bass), with an unexpected mix of psychedelic glam-rock and a smokey, slightly British-meets-the-South swagger. Majestico’s sound, a jumble of the Stones-meets-Iggy-meets-Iron Butterfly, drew the straggling crowd into the auditorium.

After that fun and well-received set, the curtain came down briefly before welcoming Tuscaloosa, Alabama’s Dexateens to the stage. Southern accented and highly energetic, the band — Elliott McPherson (guitarist/singer/singwriter), Matt Patton (bass), Brian Gosdin (drums), Lee Bains III (guitar/voclas), and Brad Armstrong (guitar/vocals) — looked to be having a blast (Patton, also the bassist for Athens’ Drive-By Truckers, wore a nonstop genuine smile the entire set). Though they occasionally hit some off-key, strained vocals, they generally won the crowd back in the next breath, through their sheer liveliness alone.

By the time the Alabama Shakes — singer/guitarist Brittany Howard, guitarist Heath Fogg, bassist Zac Cockrell, keyboard player Ben Tanner, and drummer Steve Johnson — hit the stage, the crowd had made their way to their seats just in time to spend the rest of the evening on their feet.

Howard’s vocal skills are something to behold. Her voice and demeanor is a balance of that of Janis Joplin and Billie Holiday and even Wanda Jackson; a bohemian yet cool, rough yet polished blend that can charm even the most finicky of ears. Every bellow, wail, croon, and sweet whine brought a thunderous reaction from the audience.

Going into their big hit, “Hold On,” second in the set list was a surprising and risky move, but there was no need to worry. She had already won the crowd over, and they intended to stick around and hang on her every word like it was gospel.

It’s easy to focus on Howard’s prowess, but as far as staging and lighting is concerned, the rest of the band was treated as an afterthought. They played their asses off and did a fantastic job, but a spotlight followed Howard’s every move, and Fogg, Cockrell, and Tanner were literally left in the shadows. Johnson was occasionally lit up in the path of Howard’s glow. Howard was the main attraction, but the band isn’t Brittany Howard and the Alabama Shakes. It’s the Alabama Shakes. Perhaps her bandmates may not have exhibited the charisma their leading lady had in spades, but we came to see the band, not just the woman. Light them up as bright as their leader and let the audience decide.



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About the Author

Jessica Mickey

has considered Charleston home since she first moved here in 2001. She regularly performs improv at Theatre 99 and dabbles in stand-up comedy in various venues around the Lowcountry. Jessica has also cohosted morning radio shows on 96Wave and 98X, as well as wrote the weekly column "The Chase is On" for the Charleston City Paper. She can barely play the ukulele Ballard bought her for Christmas last year, but after a couple of drinks, she can sing the shit out of some karaoke.

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