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And Still They Rise

October 5th, 2012

Alabama Shakes – Terminal 5 – October 4, 2012


Alabama Shakes are something of a paradox: At last night’s sold-out show at Terminal 5, they performed with the ease and assuredness of a veteran band, although they’re only a couple of years removed from forming during high school in Athens, Ala. And although the speed at which their popularity has grown (debut album Boys & Girls only came out just six months ago) may be something of a rare feat in the music world, it’s probably not that surprising to fans of the band’s roots-y, dynamic music, delivered with ferocity and conviction by velvet-voiced frontwoman Brittany Howard.

After getting onstage, the band wasted no time. “Goin’ to the Party” led right into “Hang Loose,” followed by “Hold On”—just letting the momentum build. As Howard sang, the crowd repeatedly burst into applause whenever she delivered an especially meaningful statement. But hey, when you hear that killer voice sing things like, “All them girls might wanna rip us apart / If they wanna fight, they done fucked with the wrong heart” (“Be Mine”), well, you’ve pretty much got to believe her.

As Alabama Shakes moved from the slow-building, bluesy vibe of “On Your Way” to the fiery, soulful intensity of new song “Always Alright” and on to Otis Redding–level passion on “Boys & Girls,” the songs upheld a sense of being wise, well-worn and lived in. Chalk it up to the sheer talent and chemistry of the musicians, or perhaps we’re hearing something more: a type of authenticity that comes only with youth. Whatever phenomenon may have led to the power of Alabama Shakes’ sound, it’s certainly a treat to watch the band perform. A most beguiling paradox. —Alena Kastin

Photos courtesy of Jeremy Ross | jeremypross.com

(Watch Alabama Shakes play “Boys & Girls” in the Mercury Lounge coat-check closet for The Bowery Presents Live.)