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

spura-lots-4_wm
Last Look at SPURA Lots Before Essex Crossing Changes Everything [PHOTOS]

Demolition for the Essex Crossing mega-project is slated to begin on Monday, forever changing the face of the Lower East Side and its heretofore low-level skyline. As previously reported, Site 2 at the corner of Essex and Delancey is the first parcel to receive knockdown treatment. The parking lot has already been cleared of vehicles, […]

ludlow-1995
Visiting the Funky Ludlow Street Landscape of 1995 [VIDEO]

Let’s take a stroll down Ludlow Street circa 1995… The following snippet of footage is a glimpse of Ludlow Street “on the corner of East Houston and Katz’s Delicatessen” as filmed by Corey Shaff (narrated by Ronnie DeMonarco). “Planet Ludlow,” as it’s called, is essentially a four-minute tour of the block and its stock of […]

living-room-plywood-1
Gallery Conversion Underway for Old Living Room Space on Ludlow Street

The former Living Room space is amidst conversion to a dry use. After the failed bid by exiled drag bar Lucky Cheng’s to take 154 Ludlow Street, the Hell Square address is now forsaking nightlife altogether. Construction has already begun on the artsy replacement; a plywood shed and curbside dumpster are now part of the […]

saro-norfolk
La Contenta Opening in the Old Saro Bistro Space Next Month

While residents grapple with the terrors of living under the thumb of Samy Mahfar, a new restaurant is opening in the commercial space of 102 Norfolk Street. As previously reported, a 14-seat Mexican joint called La Contenta Cocina de Barrio has taken the reins from Saro Bistro, which closed in April 2014 after a solid […]

50bowery-rendering-2
Joie de Vivre is the 22-Story Hotel Currently Rising at 50 Bowery

Progress is slow at Peter Poon’s monstrous new Lower East Side hotel development. Indeed, 50 Bowery remains a block-long crater, making slow strides to its eventual calling as a 22-story tower. Excavation and foundation work is clearly the order of business these days. Yet until now, a proper identity was never ascertained; only a working […]

  • RobbieTheK

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