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Review Tue Jun 03 2014
This past weekend, Space in Evanston hosted two substantially different bands from Birmingham, Alabama. It felt like showcase of the sounds of that city, showing just how diverse and ultimately unique the music scene there can be. John and Jacob took care of the rock and country side of things while St. Paul and The Broken Bones handled the soul. The energetic pairing had the sold out crowd dancing the entire night, far past the end of the show.
John and Jacob were an interesting choice to open for St. Paul and the Broken Bones. They may be easily seen as a country act, but their music holds more weight than that. John Davidson and Jacob Bryant infuse their songs with elements from all ends of the rock spectrum. Elements of blues, rockabilly, hard rock, and even a little bit of 90's alternative can be heard in their music. They combine all these varied parts while retaining country music at the core.
John & Jacob's set was incredibly tight, showing how far their musical range stretches. "Think About of You" felt like an early Weezer song sent through a country filter. "Oh Melissa" started and ended with a set of hard riffs that came seemingly out of nowhere, really departing from the rest of the set in such an interesting way. Bryant was a ball of energy throughout, never standing still as he switched between guitars and trumpet. Davidson had a bit more calm to his step, occasionally drinking from a tallboy of Daisy Cutter between songs. Their stage presence held the right amount of rock attitude and southern humbleness, getting the crowd in the right mood for the night.
There is no doubt that St. Paul and the Broken Bones are genuine in their ambition. They may look far back into the past for their inspiration, but they wholeheartedly embody it and bring it into the present with unbridled enthusiasm. Six of the band members came to the stage and started playing sans their lead singer. Allen Branstetter and Ben Griner had complete control of their horns, Andrew Lee pounded on the drums, Jesse Phillips finessed his bass, Al Gamble tapped away at his keys, and Browan Lollar's dexterity on his guitar created the perfect introduction for the band, allowing the dapper Paul Janeway to take the stage to an already riled crowd.
Janeway has an aura about him that evokes James Brown and Otis Redding while adding his own spin on it. He moved around the stage quickly, literately getting close to cutting the rug with his every changing dance moves. Every last dance step and song came accompanied by Janeway's infectious smile; a smile that is reminiscent of a devilish young boy who just discovered fire. Together, St. Paul and the Broken Bones are one of the tightest bands around. Lollar in particular has incredible poise with his guitars, truly standing out with his soaring solos. Covers like "Shake", which was introduced as a Sam Cooke song in Otis Redding's style, express the groups' feverish tenacity to reinvigorate old soul classics.
Songs like "Call Me" and "Mighty River" are filled with as much soul as the cover's they performed and were met with as much enthusiasm from the audience at Space. Janeway couldn't help but mention the rowdy crowd who danced as much as they could in the packed floor. Having played though most of their first full length LP Half the City, St. Paul and the Broken Bones decided to bring the show down with a phenomenal set of covers for the encore. Paul McCartney and the Wings' "Let Me Roll It" stood tall with a soul backbone. Janeway finished up with a roaring version of Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness", falling to the ground in feigned exhaustion only to reveal his endless energy and blow up the crowd one last time. It was a breathtaking performance that proved St. Paul and the Broken Bones' soul goes deep.