The Alabama Shakes Turn Back the Clock at Bowery Ballroom [4/11/12]

Posted on: April 13th, 2012 at 12:06 pm by

Led by the rise of Mad Men, New York’s recent retro hysteria has undoubtedly invaded the fashion world, and is partially responsible for increased consumption of lunchtime martinis, scotch nightcaps, and the reemergence of flasks as viable money-making goods. But the music scene? Well, if you’re a vinyl collector with time to browse some of the wonderful record stores from Alphabet City to St. Mark’s, then yes. Quality, nationally touring live music permeated by an old school groove? Somewhat scarce. And as such, the Alabama Shakes proved to be the hottest ticket in town, selling out both the Bowery Ballroom and the Music Hall of Williamsburg, while squeezing in a streaming MTV album release party in the Studio at Webster Hall.

Just like their last jaunt on the Lower East Side, the Alabama Shakes – Brittany Howard (vox/guitar), Heath Fogg (guitar), Zac Cockrell (bass), Steve Johnson (drums) – took their sixties-soul-influenced music and performed with raw, palpable emotion. With a voice that blends the gritty intensity of Janice Joplin and the power of Etta James, lead singer Brittany Howard is something to behold. A true soul prophet with pipes that command attention; her feelings are interwoven into her vocals. Her guitar chops are likewise – the same earnest blues chords and scales that you’d hear from a southern rocker who spent an entire adolescence jamming along to Lynyrd Skynyrd and Allman Brothers.

The whole experience was akin to stepping into a time machine. Sort of. Even much of the crowd had that “throwback” vibe – less scene-y than other sold out buzz band shows – with many longtime classic southern rock fans in attendance. Eschewing a fancy schmancy light setup in favor of simple groovy colors, the only reminders of modern concert trends were the handful of iPhones raised in the air (RIP lighters).

The Athens-based band played almost exclusively from their debut album Boys and Girls (out now on ATO), with Howard providing a background story to introduce the title track. The song is about growing apart from a close childhood friend because he was a boy, and they were getting too old to remain platonic friends. “I thought that was bullshit,” she remarked.  Other highlights of the night were the single “Hold On,” as well as the wonderful new tune called “Making Me Itch.” The latter expanded beyond guitar and bass, providing ample room for the keyboard player to improvise. For the more familiar stuff, the band sounded as tight in person as they do on wax, but the tones of the dual guitar setup were emboldened significantly.

The clincher of Wednesday night’s show was the crowd: at times, the mob was enamored by the music, quietly letting it fill the air. Otherwise it was lively, friendly, and generally reciprocated the warmth and friendliness conveyed by the band. Howard was keenly aware of the affection being showered on her by the crowd, and led a hushed call-and-response at the end of the night. In between calls and responses, she gushed about how great it was to receive so much love from New Yorkers, despite a laundry list of idiosyncrasies that concluded with “..and I drive a Hummer to my mailbox because I’m fucking frivolous!” The crowd’s response? Wild applause, followed by one last round of “DO YOU LIIIIKE ME?” from Howard. Yes, Brittany. We really like you.

The band concluded their New York stop last night at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. They return in May to open for Jack White at Roseland Ballroom. On the up and up, fo sho.

-Writeup and photos by Benjy Tocker

Recent Stories

At the Mr. Lower East Side Pageant, January 2014
RevJen’s Troll Museum is in Trouble; Here’s How You Can Help

Lower East Side fixture RevJen – minister of the local avante garde – is struggling to preserve her unique attraction. The beloved Troll Museum inside 122 Orchard Street is threatened vis-a-vis her living situation. Since being fired from the Tenement Museum bookstore last year, RevJen has reportedly struggled to make ends meet. “Encroaching gentrification and […]

Photo: Two Bridges Tower
MTA Begins First Step Toward Rehabilitating the East Broadway Subway Station

Finally, some more good news out of the East Broadway F station. State Senator Squadron, Councilwoman Margaret Chin, and Speaker Sheldon Silver collectively made good on their promise. MTA workers were mobilized in force yesterday morning to repaint the dilapidated station. Neighbors were concerned about the potential presence of lead in the peeling paint. Tragic […]

graffiti-wall-removal-3
Bowery Graffiti Wall Enclosure Removed; 2009 Os Gemeos Mural Visible

For the last few days, construction workers have dismantled the two-story paneled enclosure surrounding the Bowery graffiti wall. Now the original concrete slab – made famous by Keith Haring in summer 1982 – is publicly visible for the first time in five years. The Os Gemeos mural was the last commissioned piece before the art-vertecture […]

255-bowery-exposed
Karl Fischer’s 255 Bowery Shows Its Skin for the First Time in 3 Years

Well, what have we here? Three years on, we finally have a view of Hot Karl’s steaming seven-story pile on the Bowery. The finger building at 255 Bowery was cloaked in a shroud of bars and netting for what seemed an eternity. That all changed on Monday. Yet while the facade is now fully visible, […]

tokyo-rebel-allen
Tokyo Rebel Finds a New Home at 158 Allen Street

Where so many other boutiques have failed – most recently, Feltraiger – another is rolling the dice at 158 Allen Street. And a familiar face, at that. Alphabet City refugee Tokyo Rebel finally found a new permanent home. The five-year-old unique boutique opened its latest flagship store at 158 Allen on Tuesday afternoon. The event was […]

  • RobbieTheK

    Wow the coolest thing about that tune…it’s 1 chord, just with that little guitar riff over it!