Alabama Shakes, o2 Apollo Manchester, 16 May 2015
The mark of a truly excellent live band is when they neglect to play their biggest hit and you barely even register its absence.
Self-confessed genre benders, Alabama Shakes, are a group who have dipped their toe into the rich pool of music past and come out with a shiny new product, and a kick-ass live show to boot. Obvious comparisons would be the roots and blues native to their home state, echoed through their thick Alabama accents and sauntering basslines.
Their backing singer trio – complete with beautifully coordinated finger clicking and side stepping – would look quite at home in a Northern Soul situation, while songs as catchy and electronically enhanced as Don’t Wanna Fight and Future People wouldn’t have even been possible until recent times.
I know we shouldn’t break a band down into individual performances, but when you have a front woman like Britney Howard, it’s not that straightforward. This lady is a whirlwind of talent and stage presence, easily holding her own against other modern-day extraordinaires such as Beth Ditto, Gwen Stefani, and Karen O. Together with her slightly more incognito but undeniably tight musicians, this is a unit which works flawlessly, managing to fill every space they perform in with sound and energy.
The show dips and soars through the band’s back catalogue. The deep rumble of songs such as Gemini are so bass-heavy you feel them more than you hear them, and before you know it you’re being blown away by the shrieking crescendo of You Ain’t Alone. Notably absent was the band’s biggest hit, Hold On – a risky move when you consider the track has four times as many Spotify plays than their second most-popular song. Even with this gap in proceedings, the crowd leaves singing the band’s praises. To persuade a very mixed assembly to holler along and even indulge in a cautious jig is testament to the charming Southern hospitality that Alabama Shakes brought to Manchester.