St. Paul and The Broken Bones
Nov 4 2014
The arrival of Alabama's St. Paul and The Broken Bones at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern was less a typical concert and more a southern soul-flavoured gospel style revival. The seven piece band (lead vocals, guitar, bass guitar, drums, organ, trumpet and trombone) work together like a well-oiled machine, tight but still with the warmth of organic musicianship in the Stax/Volt tradition.
After opening with a vigorous instrumental take on Sly and the Family Stone's "Simple Song", charismatic front man Paul Janeway took to the stage like a country preacher for the powerful "Sugar Dyed". Janeway was an impressive focal point, commanding attention with his shake-the-rafters vocals and near-perfect demonstration of James Brown's "camel walk" dance steps. He's also the first vocalist I've seen that keeps a bottle of honey on stage to take frequent gulps from. This unstoppable force of nature blends the sacred and the secular into one tasty platter.
There was a yearning sense of urgency to his vocals on the ballad "Broken Bones and Pocket Change" while "Mighty River" showcased some of Janeway's most passionate screaming. The mid-tempo horn driven "It's Midnight" featured a surging rhythm section meanwhile keyboardist Al Gamble's warm organ washes made the bluesy "Grass Is Greener" a set highlight.
Finally an impassioned reading of Otis Redding's "Try A Little Tenderness" (which was not on the evening's set list) brought the celebratory evening to a satisfying finish.
Robert Lawson 2014.
Along with eleven of the twelve tracks from their debut album Half The City, the band presented a ferocious version of Sam Cooke's "Shake!" with audience participation from the sold-out crowd. Similarly, Wilson Pickett's "Ninety-Nine And A Half (Won't Do)" made the group's vintage soul influences clear. To shake things up a bit and show that the band are more than just revivalists, a flesh-driven run through of Radiohead's "Fake Plastic Trees" was given a stylistic overhaul and an encore of "Moonage Daydream" by David Bowie also kept the crowd on their toes.