I know that I was light on the pictures for the Interpol show. What did you expect? I felt like I was showing the same picture over and over. Well, get ready for some damn shots in this post: St. Paul and the Broken Bones are in the house!
The South has always put out a disproportionate share of great rock musicians. Nonetheless, I’m not aware that Birmingham, Alabama is a hotbed of musical talent. I know it as a city famous for Jim Crow and some of the most vicious civil rights atrocities; steel; Dr. James Andrews, orthopedist to every famous athlete over the last 50 years; and that’s about it. I’m sure it’s now a perfectly pleasant place except during the Iron Bowl.
But St. Paul and the Broken Bones hails from Birmingham, and whoa, did the city fathers jam some remarkable talent into this outfit. I was recently reading an article about Joe Ely in Texas Music and he was discussing how hard it is to put together a hot band, but once one is formed, how killer that band can be night after night. While he didn’t mention SPBB, he might have been thinking of them. Hot band? The stage was sparking all night. Three kick ass horns, organ/keys, and the guitar/bass/drums essentials – these guys clearly play a lot together and they feed off of each other. I didn’t hear a missed note the entire evening.
And then there is Paul Janeway.
I don’t think I’ve seen a band that put up its vocalist so front and center, and I don’t mean just as a performer but as an asset that defines the entire outfit. And for good reason. There are many fine singers out there for sure, but this guy is in a different hemisphere. His dynamic range is huge, his inflection and delivery are born not made, and if there was ever a white dude who can sing soul like this guy, I want to see him. Paul is the real deal. A “must see” in my not-so-humble opinion.
And, BRP ALERT!!!, he’s a showman, too. The band comes out on stage except for Paul. They warm up the crowd for a minute of two and then Paul comes out in a sparkly gold cape looking like the guy from the Verizon commercials (can you hear me now?). He struts, he poses, he is all over the stage, and he belts out sweet soul and R&B like you wouldn’t believe. I have to check and see if he sang gospel music during his upbringing because this voice is from God.
SPBB has three albums out, and they generously played great songs from their entire output. Ryan thought that Paul’s voice may be a limiting factor in the type of music they can play, and I know what he means, but man, you also have to love what they are doing in that space. When this band decided to lay down a groove, the entire crowd was up and swaying to the music. You just couldn’t help yourself. After seeing Interpol sleepwalk through their show the night before, these guys were a reaffirmation about how good live music can be.
I can’t remember how SPBB came into my orbit. But I had heard that they were great live, and since I could save about $400 flying down to Florida on Sunday rather than Saturday, I decided to save the money and spend just a wee bit of those savings to see SPBB. I’m patting myself on the back with that good choice. Here’s a video that might give you a sense of what you missed on Saturday night:
The show was at the Fillmore. You might remember that I’ve carped about the parking situation around the Fillmore, but I cadged a great spot on Columbus Avenue right across from the Sugar House Casino and Preview of Hell, and saved myself $20. The venue itself is cool – about half the size of the Anthem in DC, it’s much more intimate but still big enough to grab some top-shelf talent. It was sold out. And the crowd was older, too, which was fine with me. I didn’t see anyone texting for half the show like I did at millennial central in DC. People were fired up for a good show, including two women behind me who didn’t STFU the whole time, but they were having fun and I’m nothing if not mellow and non-judgmental.
I’m going to comment on crowds just for a second. In the last 6 weeks, I’ve been to shows in 3 different geographies: SoFla, DC and Philly. SoFla crowds are party-hearty like in the 70s with a bit more redneck flavor than I’m used to and women who like to dress to kill. It feels like a southern frat party. DC is text messages, beards and people who are buttoned down in terms of their effusion during a show. It feels like you’re on the Hill waiting to see someone with an inflated view of themselves. Philly is the best: fun loving, partying, but musically sophisticated and diverse. Ugly, too, but hey, that’s not bad if you’re decent looking as you stand out in the crowd, haha. Is it fair to draw conclusions about entire music scenes and people who inhabit a city from just one show in each town? Nope, not at all. But it’s BRP!
Back to SPBB. If you get the chance, go see them live. They are hot and talented. They are grateful that you are helping to feed their families. They don’t sound like many other bands out there. And Paul is a gift from God who shouldn’t be missed. You’ll have fun.
What’s next? I have another show in February at Philly’s newest venue, The Met. I’m interested in seeing the theater and will report back on the good and the bad. Who am I seeing? It’s my annual Tedeschi Trucks Band show, so the music will be good. After that, it’s a couple more shows in March. But here on BRP, it might also include the next installment in the Ultimate Rock Playlist. And a photo montage from my new second home. Those are the carrots that I’m dangling – check back soon and see what heresies I’m committing and spit like a pissed off llama as you read through my trite posts. Here’s your consoling thought: just be thankful that you don’t have to live inside of my head, ok? I’m sick of putting up with that bunghole, too. With that, I’m outta here and you should be as well.
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.