Tuesday, 31 January 2017

St. Paul and the Broken Bones - A Celebratory Cocktail of Soul Played with Exuberant Ease - Leeds Irish Centre, Leeds, 31.01.17.

When singer Paul Janeway and bassist Jesse Phillips met in 2012 to start a musical project together, they both viewed it as “a last hurrah” before quitting the musical scene. Almost five years on, Alabama’s St. Paul and the Broken Bones have put out two records, play a televised slot at last year’s Glastonbury Festival and open for The Rolling Stones across America. As a final roll-of-the-dice goes, this one keeps on tumbling.
St. Paul and the Broken Bones performing live at Austin City
Limits Festival, 2016. (Credit to Austin Music Source.)
Their sold-out Leeds show – upgraded from the Brudenell Social Club to the near-double capacity Irish Centre – is part of a celebratory lap supporting sophomore LP Sea of Noise, an exuberant, heady cocktail of soul, jazz and blues. The onus of this multitude of musical veins being opened lies with the seven-piece Broken Bones, who showcase a lean versatility throughout proceedings. Across a ninety-five minute set, they cross-pollinate genres with an exuberant ease, from the Southern gothic of I’ll Be Your Woman to the beefy, brassy funk of Like a Mighty River, with driving, disco-tinged covers of Van Morrison, Sam Cooke and Radiohead throwing enjoyable curveballs into the mix.

Janeway is the magnetic presence that anchors it all though, oozing sex and spirituality behind his gold microphone. Voice rich and mellifluous, with the depth of the Marianas Trench, he bellows his way through the church-parade gospel of Waves and Brain Matter with a lithe vitality, thriving above the horn-and-organ bedrock. On All I Ever Wonder, he jives his way across the stage from left to right, glittered animal-print jacket catching the lights like tiny diamonds. During I’m Torn Up, brow profusely sweating, he undulates wildly as he howls pained, lonely sentiments, a preacher exorcising demons through the impassioned roar of his own soul.

For the tender ballad Broken Bones and Pocket Change, he makes his way through the crowd to the padded benches behind the sound desk that separate the two levels of the venue, where he croons and hollers to appreciative fans whilst the band on-stage vamp it up. He loses his right shoe, a gold brogue, whilst clambering up; on his return to the stage, he holds it aloft, like an ostentatious lamp guiding this intrepid explorer through the forest of bodies. Part-minister, part-master of ceremonies, Janeway commands all of the space afforded him; when slipping between the falsetto croon of Flow With It (You Got Me Feeling Like) and the sultry smooth of Midnight on the Earth, his credentials are impeccably authentic, his showmanship freighted with unfiltered desire.
St. Paul and the Broken Bones performing live at Austin City
Limits Festival, 2016. (Credit to Getty Images.)
Stripped of the burnished strings on record, some of the Broken Bones’ newest material loses an elegiac grandeur; but in turn, it is traded out for a physical heft, with material like Tears in the Diamond buoyed by woozy keyboard flourishes. Chicken-scratch guitar roughs up old cut Half the City; and with the slow sermon-like Burning Rome storming to a dynamic crescendo, the group cap off an infectiously feel-good performance triumphantly. Janeway and company’s “last hurrah” as they put it is, rightfully, not so final after all.

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