Brittany Howard hits the stage like a fireball.
There’s no other way to say this. She is an elemental force of nature. A tsunami. A meteor strike. Her voice heralds the sound continents make as they collide in the dying light at the end of epochs. Were this the heyday of Soul? This band would sit firmly enthroned with the greatest of the form. Scepters in hand. Crowns firmly affixed upon their brilliant heads.
Make no mistake. Every second this woman plays you are being given a glimpse into an alternate reality — one where the pioneering female musicians of the 20s.. The 30s.. 40s and 50s, were set free of the terrible bonds imposed on them by an unjust society. Where they could well and truly exist as the supernovae they were. Chuck Berry may have well ended up a footnote under Brittany Howard’s progenitors without the chains they were forced to wear in life.
Perhaps you suspect hyperbole on my part in this. To that, I can only point out the titling of this column. Ladies and gentleman? With Alabama Shakes in town on this night?
You bet yr ass Hampton Roads’ shreds.
Howard and her compatriots fearlessly tore through a nearly two hour set, holding a packed venue spellbound as they covered the bases between hits and deep cuts. If you’re a fan of Roots Rock and straight up Soul, you need to see this band live.
This was the first time I’ve been to the Pavilion in quite a few years, and I have to remark on how well organized and courteous the staff seemed. I’ll definitely be making my way over through the tunnel more often to catch shows there in the future.
Corinne Bailey Rae
Tragedy and triumph are strange bedfellows.
Corinne Bailey Rae is an interesting case. From her origins as a far harder edged vocalist in a Riot Grrl indie band from the late 90s, to a transformation into a roots Soul singer — this is a woman who found her true calling with a second act. Her music comes across as revelation, transmitted through a wall of fire and blood and heartache. She’s somehow managed to find rays of stray sunlight to fashion a dazzling announcement: The return of dawn after losing everything to the cold, unforgiving brutality of midnight in the garden of ill fortune.
Keep in mind, this isn’t a 22 year old ingenue hitting the stage. This is a woman close to rounding the corner on forty, who has in the past decade suffered through the untimely death of her husband and has struggled to establish herself as a contemporary artist in the wake of major restructuring within her music label. With a number three entry just a few months ago on the R&B/Hip-Hop charts, things seem to be finally on track for this transatlantic Soul singer to become a household name in the States.
Her opening was polished and nuanced as she projected hope in the face of world weary experience. This is a woman who draws upon deep sorrow with her work: If you’re a fan of singer-songwriter oriented Soul or R&B, you should check her out when she returns on her own.