Wednesday, November 9, 2011
North Mississippi Allstars Shake Paradise Rock Club
Sometimes being a blogger pays dividends. I received an email a couple of weeks ago saying that I could cover The Smashing Pumpkins show with Light FM at The Orpheum Theatre on October 21. I was stoked as The Smashing Pumpkins were playing material from Gish and Siamese Dream [two of my favorite albums ever] in celebration of their upcoming reissues and Light FM is a fine up-and-coming band. At the time, I was arranging plans to catch some of the free shows at CMJ that weekend but I decided to cancel those plans and stay in town. As often is the case, there was a miscommunication within the PR company and my ticket was not waiting for me at the venue. With nothing to do that night, I called some Boston venues looking for something else to see. I was pleasantly surprised that North Mississippi Allstars were playing with one of my absolute favorite emerging talents, Alabama Shakes at Paradise Rock Club.
With all my efforts previously focused on other shows, I happen to overlook that Alabama Shakes were going to make their first appearance in Boston. If you have been keeping up with this blog, you have probably stumbled upon a word or two about them. They are one of the most promising blues/soul revival acts of the past few years. I was now really excited to see if they can translate the raw emotional power of their recordings into an equally captivating performance. It was going to be a close call making it in time for the beginning of their set so I quickly hopped on the T and made my way to the venue.
A soon as Alabama Shakes got started, I immediately forgot about the night’s earlier debacle. Watching Brittany Howard pour her heart out in “Hold On,” I couldn’t help but think I was watching a rare talent akin to Aretha Franklin or Janis Joplin. Howard is a commanding performer that draws every ounce of passion she can from her lungs and ropes you in with every note. The rest of the band provided the perfect backing: shuffling rhythms, dirty southern guitar licks, and deep, soothing bass. When all was over, the venue erupted in applause. It was clear we all just saw something very special. A lot of people have been talking about Alabama Shakes and I wouldn’t expect that to die down any time soon. I had my camera on me and seized the opportunity to capture their show stopping performance of “You Ain’t Alone.” It is the perfect validation for the attention they have been getting.
The house was packed for North Mississippi Allstars and the rowdy, drunken crowd added to their muddy blues sound. The band consists of brothers Luther Dickinson (guitar, vocals) and Cody Dickinson (drums, keyboards, electric washboard) who are joined by Chris Chew (electric bass guitar). Luther used about eight guitars during the performance if you include the two homemade ones (one being a cigar box guitar called the "lowebow"). Each had its own unique tone and flavor that complimented the tunes, making it so the set didn’t feel repetitive. It’s a good thing too as they played a marathon set. At the beginning of the performance, Luther pointed to the sound engineer stating, “Turn that clock around, we’re not going to need that tonight.”
The group kept things kicking the entire night with favorites like “Keep the Devil Down” alongside of blues standards such as “Rollin’ and Tumblin’.” The best moments were probably the hip-shakers like “Shake What Your Mama Gave You” which really got the crowd moving and allowed Luther to strut around stage while executing some remarkable solos. The video below comes from their encore where they played a stirring version of “Mean Ol’ Wind Died Down.” Sure I ended up going to a completely different show than I thought I would be attending at the beginning of the night, but I don’t think it was any less satisfying. It was a revelation that I don’t go to enough blues shows.