Thousands gathered to listen to a preacher give thanks. Her boisterous voice echoed throughout the golden walls, as painted angels peered down from the ceiling. She removed her glasses to wipe the sweat from her brow and then threw her hands to the sky as she sang to the heavens in gratitude and desperation.
Brittany Howard is the lead singer and guitarist of the Grammy nominated band, Alabama Shakes. On August 1, 2017 she was a preacher. The Palace Theater in Albany, NY was the church. The sold out crowd of 2,800 ticket holders the congregation.
Throughout the evening, she would pause to give thanks. Thanks to the Emily King, the opening folk act who drummed up the crowd’s excitement. Thanks to the fans for coming out on a Monday to show their support and hear them play. Thanks to her eight other band members for tearing it up. And a reminder to “take this message with you and make others feel good.”
Like a southern preacher, Howard was animated, soulful, serious and powerful. Entering onto the stage with a sample of David McCallum’s “The Edge” playing in the background, a feeling of intensity was shock waved throughout the building. The Shakes began with “Future People,” a song from their 2015 album Sound and Color. As she would do throughout the evening with songs like “I’m Yours” and “Dunes,” she began quietly but then abruptly pounced into action with volume and muscle.
The songs they played from the 2012 album, Boys and Girls, like “I Ain’t the Same,” and “Hang Loose” have a distinctly southern gospel rock to them. They’re playful and dance-inducing, providing opportunities for the band to shine. Every song from Sound and Color seemed to be more Howard focused. Her vocal range is bass to soprano, all with notes she holds. Her voice has an old-timey, soulful sound that pairs nicely with the instrumentals.
Before returning to the stage for a three-song encore, Howard and backup singer Lloyd Buchanan performed a sweet, romantic and somehow heartbreaking duet of “Gemini.” The two were able to convey a sense of unbounded and tender love. The evening ended with a soft “Over My Head,” like a lullaby to say goodnight.
Those lucky enough to witness the raw talent of Alabama Shakes at The Palace Theater went to bed that night feeling pure bliss and of course, gratitude.