After seeing a scruffy young kid from Jersey play in 1974, Jon Landau wrote, “I saw my rock and roll past flash before my eyes. I saw something else: I saw rock and roll’s future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.”
Saturday night at the Fox Theatre in Boulder, a sold-out crowd saw the future of music in the Alabama Shakes. As it turns out, the future of music is all about the past and the great tradition of soul music. No half-baked indie surfer rock. No vocoders, auto-tune, or reverb. Just earnest, in-your-face rock and roll soul.
Vocalist Brittany Howard doesn’t just sing. She bellows in anguish, pushing enough air onto the embers to stoke a fire under the ass of anyone within earshot. Combined with the precise and powerful rhythms of bassist Zac Cockrell, drummer Steve Johnson, guitarist Heath Fogg, and keyboardist Ben Tanner, the Alabama Shakes were a force to be reckoned with, storming through their set and leaving the packed audience sated and sweaty.
Locals A. Tom Collins proved they were more than up to the challenge of opening the show. The band hit their stride mid-way through the set, tearing through favorites like “Mambo” and “Pants Off Dance Off” and winning over both the audience and the Alabama Shakes, who meandered up from the green room to watch from the side of the stage.
Riding on the strength of a four song EP and a well-earned reputation for raucous live shows, the Alabama Shakes have found themselves rocketing towards breakout success. Their song “You’re Not Alone” was featured in a Zales holiday commercial and they continue to sell out venues across the country.
But much bigger things lie on the horizon for this young band. Tomorrow night, The Alabama Shakes will make their television debut on “Conan.” They are also releasing a live 7″ on Jack White’s Third Man Records this month and their debut album is due out in April on ATO Records, a good fit considering ATO is also the home to Southern soul revivalists Lucero and Drive-by Truckers.
Not bad for a young band from Athens, Ala.
In the closing coda of “Hold On,” Howard rings out an anthem as the band breaks into a burst of guitar chords and cymbal crashes: “Yeah you gotta wait, but I don’t want to wait!”
Something tells me Ms. Howard and her band will not have to wait much longer.
Ryan Johnson is a Denver videographer, social media strategist and guitar player for hire. Contact him here.
Joshua Elioseff is a Boulder based photographer of everything, a self-professed music junkie and regular contributor to Reverb. Check his photos out on Facebook or his website.