Tuesday 10 November 2015

On Stage: Alabama Shakes at Paradiso Amsterdam

Things moved really fast for Alabama Shakes, especially after releasing their first record Boys & Girls. The band played many gigs and the stages they play on have grown since then. From small clubs they can now take on the bigger clubs and also the big stages at festivals. Their second album Sound & Color is a brave change of direction that works very well. They bring soul singer Michael Kiwanuka as support with them so all the more reason to go check them out.

Alabama Shakes at Paradiso Amsterdam, November 7 2015

Ahead of the show I get an email with the advice to show up early because many people want to see Michael Kiwanuka and it may get crowded early. Indeed by the time the singer takes the stage the venue has already filled up considerably. I always find it wonderful to watch and listen to Kiwanuka. His voice is gentle and comforting but still strong. His band is standing close to him as if they try to make the space as tiny as possible. This works well and it turns the performance into an intimate one. The new songs sound promising and some of the old songs get new arrangements. I’m looking forward to hearing more new music by him.

From the first song on you can tell Alabama Shakes spent a lot of time on the road. Of course the wonderful Brittany Howard has an overwhelming appearance, but she has grown into a charismatic artist on top of it. Her incredible voice alone can carry all the songs, but she looks really comfortable on stage now, mostly with her guitar, knocking out solos with great ease. Sometimes she will put it away and move around the stage like a first class crooner. It suits her well and it makes the performance a lively one.

The band, extended with background singers and an additional keyboard player, are always on the background. Although they are not in the spotlight, you can hear they have become more tight and provide a sturdy foundation for Howard’s big voice. And that voice never fails to impress, even after having seen them a few times before. However the big difference with those other times are some of the new songs, where the band have chosen to do things differently. They could have done a similar second record, but this is so much better.

They have mixed in some R&B, garage rock, pop and more swing, really broadening their sound with it and Howard is using her voice in a more diverse way. Confidently they have put all songs of the new album on tonight’s setlist. Live it is even more clear how good songs like ‘Dunes’ and ‘Gimme All Your Love’ are, but especially the songs that really show the new direction like ‘This Feeling’, ‘Gemini’ and ‘Over My Head’ sound incredible, sometimes reminding me of D’Angelo. It proves Alabama Shakes are now a confident and established band and have chosen the right way. That way is only going up.

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01. Dunes
02. Future People
03. I Ain't The Same
04. Rise to the Sun
05. Heartbreaker
06. Boys & Girls
07. Guess Who
08. Miss You
09. Be Mine
10. The Greatest
11. Shoegaze
12. Hold On
13. This Feeling
14. You Ain't Alone
15. On Your Way
16. Always Alright
17. Don't Wanna Fight
18. Gemini
19. Joe
20. Sound & Color
21. Gimme All Your Love
22. Over My Head

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