Live Review: Alabama Shakes – Manchester Apollo

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As part of a short UK tour to show off their exceptional sophomore record Sound & Colorreleased a month ago, it was a delight to see Alabama Shakes roll into town once more, bringing with them their gritty, soul-soaked rawness that we have come to love and expect.

Support on the night came from Sheffield’s favourite duo that are Slow Club. With Rebecca and Charles backed by a small, but highly-talented band, they delivered a sumptuous set filled with their unique blend of twee indie and glorious soul. If Brittany Howard wasn’t about to come on and blow us away with her incredible vocals, we’d be awarding star of the night straight to Rebecca Taylor. Having followed Slow Club over the years, it has been great to see her voice increasingly improve and mature, displaying the knockout Motown tones that feature on 2014’s Complete Surrender.

When I last saw Alabama Shakes perform in Manchester, it was in the highly-fitting surroundings of a local church, where I witnessed one of the finest sets of my life. So, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little apprehensive this night. But within seconds, I had forgotten all about our last meeting and once again, was completely captivated by Howard and co.

In fact, it wasn’t until around half an hour into the show, that I came to and realised I had been starring with an enormous and probably pretty dumb-looking grin on my chops, and had forgotten that I was ultimately here not just to be hypnotised by Alabama Shakes, but to review the show a little bit as well! At this point I could easily stop, write ‘INCREDIBLE’ and call it a day. But the ounce of professionalism in me will force me to continue…

Though, as mentioned, I was very much in a trance for the first thirty minutes, what I can recall is the absolute showmanship of the set. The lights, the setup, the way Brittany preached as if she were a clergyman declaring the word of God – it was completely brilliant. Kicking off the night with Don’t Wanna Fight – taken from this year’s effort Sound & Color – the group displayed their increasing sense of style, following on from their country and blues 2012 debut Boys & GirlsThey’ve matured, mastering new sounds and matching them with deep and raw influences of the 60s and 70s.

The set predominantly saw the Shakes play tracks from the new record, bashing out stomping numbers such as the rock n’rolling The Greatest and the thrilling Future People, (which proved Howard can reach notes that most singers can only dream of), as well as illustrating their diverse range of talents with the bluesy and beautiful Miss You and Over My Head – two tracks that highlight Howard’s increasingly mature and honest lyric-writing.

Nonetheless, it was inevitably the ‘classics’ that led to much grooving and shaking from Howard’s congregation. Hang Loose and Be Mine were greeted with mass applause and the age-ranging crowd all making their best attempts to imitate the lead-singer’s vivacious and animated delivery. And with the set coming to a close (possibly a little earlier than hoped) with You Ain’t Alone, everyone ensured they sang-along with as much gusto as they could muster!

Alabama Shakes are quite simply one of the most exciting bands of our generation. Each member has their own style – from the Jesus-crossed-with-Animal-(from The Muppets)-esque drummer, to possibly the most chilled out, laid back son-of-a gun-bassist I’ve ever seen, to Brittany Howard, for whom there are not enough superlatives to describe. But what’s more, they all come together to create music, style and showmanship that excites people of any age, background and musical taste.

At the beginning of the night, Howard had proclaimed that she wanted to end their short tour ‘in style’…and my goodness did they do just that!