St. Paul & the Broken Bones Give Brooklyn Bowl
a Soul Infusion

Posted on Thursday September 17th in

St. Paul & the Broken Bones :: 2015.09.16 :: Brooklyn Bowl

Photos courtesy of Jeremy Ross | jeremypross.com

Even if now wasn’t the time for from-the-gut rock and soul, you’re convinced St. Paul & the Broken Bones would make it the time. Insist it was the time. Alabama Shakes, Vintage Trouble, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Eli “Paperboy” Reed, the London Souls — all of these mighty singers and bands come at soul from different angles, classic and slick to gnarled, fuzzed, and psyched-out. St. Paul, led by the irrepressible Paul Janeway, may be the most purely exciting of all of them. Last night at Brooklyn Bowl, the band started cooking and then got downright roiling, earth moving, and that’s when Janeway himself took the stage, ready to detonate.

If there’s a downside to St. Paul performances — and it was the lone downside at this tightly packed evening — it’s that they breeze on by, like a momentary stun. The group got rolling, with Janeway venturing into the crowd, whipping everyone into a frenzy, and they were just as soon out of there, sweaty, exhausted, tank emptied. Fine by us, the packed crowd seemed to say: We’ll take St. Paul staples like “Half the City,” “Down in the Valley,” “Grass Is Greener,” and “I’m Torn Up,” and not just hear them, but also feel them. Janeway’s out there, he’s testifying, he’s mugging on Otis Redding (“Shake”), the band was throbbing on tunes like “Don’t Mean a Thing” or simmering on numbers like “Broken Bones and Pocket Change” or rocking things up, almost to a Zeppelin degree, on “Like a Mighty River.”

None of this is new territory, of course. It’s exceptional showmanship underscored by exceptional musicianship and Janeway’s own good-dude-with-a-slightly-sinister-bent magnetism. He’s found the guys who can hit that sweet spot, and the Broken Bones standouts remain keyboardist Al Gamble, son of music royalty and milker of the organ, and guitarist Browan Lollar, who can span rock and blues (and did, as a former member of Jason Isbell’s band), and Muscle Shoals and Memphis. But the Broken Bones are a package deal: Drummer Andrew Lee and bassist Jesse Phillips are an unfailing pocket, and the horns know when to smooth, when to color, and when to wail. Here’s hoping for St. Paul’s sustained momentum and that as they grow they don’t lose their slightly unhinged, garage-rock side. Plenty of contemporary soul bands let others dictate their next moves when they hit St. Paul’s current level of critical mass and wind up sanded down or slicked up. But somehow you know Janeway and crew won’t let that happen. —Chad Berndtson | @cberndtson

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