Review: Alabama Shakes / Diamond Rugs at SummerStage

Alabama Shakes  / Diamond Rugs @ Central Park SummerStage, June 24

Words: Carla Danca
Photos: Jeremy Gordon

On a New York Sunday filled with music, Central Park’s SummerStage went quite a different direction than that of nearby Governor’s Ball and instead of going with DJs and electronic music focused their “Sold Out”  free event on two young rock bands.

[All Photos by Jeremy Gordon]

The opening act – Diamond Rugs – are a true supergroup of well-known indie/rock musicians drawn from bands that on the surface are very different (but love to drink beer). Unlike so many other side projects, this band was an impressive force much greater than the sum of its parts.  While each band member brings his own sound, the mix is pleasing and familiar, in a good way. This band is definitely a bit quirky with their own style and irreverence for the calendar as they closed the set with a tune about Christmas that left a few eyebrows raised.

It might seem like yesterday that the Alabama Shakes burst onto the scene as the most talked about band at CMJ. In less than a year, the band has quickly moved up to headlining Central Park’s SummerStage.  To those unfamiliar with the band, it quickly becomes apparent why Jack White has taken this band under his wing by touring with the quartet and producing their material. As someone who is no stranger to reviving a retro sound, the Alabama Shakes are the perfect accompaniment to his baby blue and nostalgia-tinged prom band. The Shakes quick growth reminds us that good old fashioned rock and roll will never die. As a powerful band that punctuates the oft-sung-about troubles of love, you can see how they started out covering the classics of rock. All the while, front woman Brittany Howard gives off the air of someone with many more years of heartbreak and hurt under her belt.

The comparison to Janis Joplin is an apt one as Brittany uses her gritty southern sound to tease the emotion out of each note. Only true soul shaking music like this could bring a steamy New York crowd to its knees, begging and pleading for just a little more love. Her heartbroken anthems announced that she isn’t the girl she used to be and we can see that’s true. In a season when female artists are getting more and more attention, Howard takes rock back to its roots and that’s music to our ears.

For more events at SummerStage (free and paid) check out the schedule here.

Here’s a full gallery featuring Jeremy Gordon’s shots of the Shakes and Diamond Rugs…

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