Saturday, March 24, 2012

Alabama Shakes – Reggie’s – 3/10/12

The Alabama Shakes hit my radar last year like a B1 Bomber entering urban airspace. So I was excited to find out they were coming to town last December to the small, yet inviting Hideout. And then I was disappointed to find out it was the same night as a Wilco show for which I already had tickets. But then I was excited to find out that they were doing a second show a couple days later at the sterile, seated, yet acceptable SPACE in Evanston. And then I was disappointed to find out it was the same night as my Christmas dinner for work. I considered blowing off dinner but since there were only eight of us, my absence might have been noticeable. I still considered it, but ultimately put on my bib and got down with some crab legs. But then I was excited a couple months later when they announced a return trip to Chicago for a gig at the venerable Lincoln Hall. And then I was disappointed to find out it was the same night Dave Alvin was in town. If you read my previous review, you’ll understand that missing Dave was not an option. Yet I was still tempted. And then I was excited to hear that they were doing a free WXRT show at Reggie’s the following day at high noon. Would Brittany finally be Cracky’s bride instead of his bridesmaid? Hell yes. I even shimmied down the retired dumbwaiter to gain early access to the hall and secure a front row spot.

Was she worth the wait? Hell yes. Can I do the rest of this review as a Q&A format? Hell yes. Did I really get that excited about a band that hasn’t even released their first full-length record yet? Hell yes. Check out YouTube. Okay, enough of that.

The music. It’s as if Otis Redding were born a woman and adopted by Mama and Papa Allman and raised along side Greg and Duane and then turned loose with a guitar and a notebook plastered with Zeppelin stickers.

Clothes make the man. So before you go making fun of my Wham! t-shirts, perhaps you’d be interested to know that vocalist Brittany Howard kicked this band thing off by inviting the weird kid in her psych class to play with her because she liked the band t-shirts he wore. They eventually found an additional guitarist and drummer and hatched this Alabama Shakes thing.

Brittany commands center stage, filling the place with her impassioned vocals and then attacking her guitar with similar vigor. It’s always nice to see a guitarist who knows more than the same three open chords that I do. But I digress.

The band stays largely in the background, recognizing that Brittany is the lobster in this bisque and they are the cream holding it together with just a dash of sherry to remind you that they’re there. It works. My only complaint is that the set clocked in well under an hour, but I'll shove that complaint up my own ass since it was a free show and the fact that they played less than 12 hours the night before and were due back on stage in Milwaukee later that day. Take care of that voice, Brittany, or else you'll end up like Drew Brees after that shoulder injury. And we all know how that turned out.

Bottom line: She’s fun to watch. They’re easy to listen to. You’ll dig the tunes. Cracky shakes his tailfeather.

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