St. Paul & The Broken Bones – Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn, NY 9/16/15 (SHOW REVIEW)

Paul Janeway has more charisma in his little finger than most performers could contain in their entire bodies, and he brought every last ounce of it to Brooklyn Bowl on September 16th where his band St. Paul and the Broken Bones packed the house. The Birmingham, Alabama-based group have been steadily building their fan base for the last couple of years, and since the 2014 release of their critically lauded debut album Half the City, they have officially reached “favorite band” status.

Those who came out to see them were a hungry bunch, impatiently and enthusiastically dying for Janeway to get onstage. Even though the insanely talented Sean Rowe’s opening set – which, sadly, was barely audible thanks to the poor layout of this venue that places a popular, busy bowling alley directly next to a live music area – the crowd could hardly contain themselves. The room was abuzz with (rudely loud and oblivious) fans shouting their excitement for St. Paul and the Broken Bones over Rowe’s excellent “Desiree”, “My Little Man” and “Shine My Diamond Ring”, and his set got a little lost in the shuffle.

But in the moments leading up to the Broken Bones taking the stage, you would have thought the audience was waiting on Michael Jackson. And when the seven-piece band finally began to descend the stairs backstage and take their places, a handful of voices could be heard saying in a loud whisper, “There he is! That’s him! That’s Paul!” Janeway’s fantastic bandmates (trombone, trumpet, sax, keys, drums, bass and guitar) warm up with a gradual instrumental build-up before he appears, sauntering on stage confidently to greet his fans. “It’s time to shake your ass,” he told us, before launching into his set, which included Half the City in its funky, soulful entirety and a handful of very well-chosen covers (Otis Redding, The Beatles).

Janeway is a born-performer, having come up in the church where he sang gospel in his youth, and hearing him sing now is not a far cry from listening to an impassioned preacher. He even throws in a few call-and-answer “amens”. His onstage persona is theatrical and brash, cheeky and bossy, and it all suits his larger-than-life personality. Decked out in his signature dark-rimmed glasses and a pair of glittering lace-up shoes, you could daresay Janeway is something of a diva. But his Southern charm keeps him down to earth and sweet, and as evidenced by his ear to ear smile during the constant overwhelming applause, he is nothing but humbled and flattered by the love. His voice is a treasure, bold and rich, with pockets of nuance and a soulful smoothness that’s rare. He makes no secret of taking care of his precious chords, alternating between a spray of some mysterious tonic, a gulp of thick honey, a sip of tea and plenty of water.

What is mind-blowing is how many concert-goers knew all the words to so many of the Broken Bones’ songs. In the wake of the success of fellow Southern band Alabama Shakes, that retro soul sound the Broken Bones have perfected is all the rage. But with one full-length studio album (that’s less than two years old) to their name, it’s amazing how quickly they’ve amassed such a devoted following. It is every bit deserved, though, and Janeway and his band work hard for it, their energy never wavering one bit throughout their live shows. They continue to rack up impressive opening gigs for iconic bands, and their sound is so unbelievably tight, it is impossible not to get sucked in.

Janeway and co. knocked the whole place on their asses singing their electrically charged tunes like “I’m Torn Up”, “Call Me”, “Broken Bones and Pocket Change”, “Like a Mighty River”, “Grass is Greener” and “Let it Be So”, to name a few. And with a three-song encore, no one could get enough. At one point, it appeared that Janeway mouthed to himself “I love this shit”, and it would be hard to believe it if he didn’t. He did say out loud, “I love New York!” And without a doubt, New York loves him back.

 

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