When: September 21st, 2016.
Where: Fox Theater – Oakland, CA.
What do you get when a queen of gospel marries a soul man and has a beautiful little R&B baby that goes on to play southern rock? Well that, my friends, would be St. Paul & The Broken Bones.
But first, a few words on the opening group, The Seratones.
I walked into the Fox a few minutes into their show and right away the name Alabama Shakes came to mind. With their bubbly attitude and sleazy, yet traveled, rhythm they got the crowd ready for what was a great night to come. Maybe it was their lead singer, AJ Hayne’s incredible voice and range, maybe it was her puffy fro, or her nonstop hips and head shakes but she grabbed the attention of the crowd and never let go. Her band mates seemed to outline her effervescence by remaining subtle and focused while she bounced around, talking and joking in between songs. The whole bands personality was quirky and fun. For the last song, AJ came down the stairs, jumped the divider and danced and sang with the rest of us down in front, immediately springing into action who had managed to keep to themselves until this point. I had never heard of The Seratones going into this show, but they will certainly be on my radar after that performance.
Now, onto the main course.
St. Paul & The Broken Bones have a unique sound that I just had to see for myself which most certainly did not disappoint. If asked to give a one liner on the show I would have to say quite simply “Oozing with soul”. From the moment the curtains swung open, lead singer Paul Janeway put every cubic inch of his 5’8″ 230 lb frame into his one of a kind voice and delivery. Owning the red suit, sparkly gold shoes, and microphone to match, he traversed the stage back and forth as though his delivery was an argument trying to convince the audience, his jury, to spare his life. The rest of the band, more flatly dressed in black suits (except the trumpet player who was in what Paul said looked like a “magicians jacket”), plead behind him as he begged for our empathy, and I’ll be dammed if I didn’t pardon him right then and there.
The band just released its second studio album, Sea of Noise, which although I personally didn’t like as much as their first, I did enjoy nonetheless. Many of the opening songs were from this album, which has a much more gospel feel, and served as a great launching point for what the band admittedly called (despite only having 2 albums) their “greatest hits” portion of the show. Before they got there they had a short interlude without Paul on stage to show off the bands depth. From the organists funky, shivering sound to the brass sections, well… brass, this was a great way to display the true talent behind the one of a kind voice that tends to steal the spotlight. A well deserved and fun addition to the show as while he was on stage I really could not help but stay fixed to Paul as he pranced around, making moves and gestures to the music almost like a child so innocent and proud of something he made despite it looking a bit goofy. During one of their hit songs, Broken Bones and Pocket Change, Paul worked his way around to both sides of the stage one step further each length he walked. Eventually he worked his way to the right of the stage to a small nook, almost hidden from the spotlight, for what appeared to be an emotional release, which brought him to his knees as he belted out his heart into the song. On his way back to his feet he grabbed hold of a decorative ornament, squeezing it tightly in his embrace as he slid back up to get back to the main part of the stage. I cannot comprehend the energy it takes to put that much into your music day in and day out which made it feel like he was doing it just for us, one night only. Between every song the crowd couldn’t help but give ovations the likes of which many bands may never know. Many times throughout the night, the band couldn’t help but stop for a second, remove their ear plugs, and marvel at the love that was coming back to them but trust me when I say this, it was not a 10th of the love that they put into each song they delivered as though it was going to be their last.
I couldn’t tell you what time it was when they said they had one more song for us. Members of the audience in the front of the stage plead for 5 or ten more. To that Paul jokingly said “well you don’t want one, and we just can’t do two… so we’ll give you three!”. As sad as it was to see it coming to an end, I can’t blame them for needing to stop. They had given us everything we’d asked for and more and although we knew they couldn’t play all night, we wanted them to come as close as they could – and they did.
TL;DR – MUST SEE.