By Chuck Cox
Dallas, meet the Alabama Shakes.
Less than a month after its amazing performance on “Saturday Night Live” dropped jaws across the country, Alabama Shakes, one of the hottest bands going, made its Big D debut on Tuesday night at the sold-out Palladium Ballroom.
I had been looking forward to this show for quite some time. And I was even more blown away by it than I expected. I’m not sure I have ever seen a singer with the stage presence of Brittany Howard. From the time she sang thee opening notes of “Hang Loose” to the time she wrapped things up by showering the enthusiastic crowd with love for coming to she her band play 75 minutes later, Howard absolutely owned the stage — so much so that it was hard to take my eyes off of her for even a second or two.
Rightfully compared to Janis Joplin, Howard is the real deal. She has an incredible set of pipes that she’s not afraid to brandish. And it could not be more suited for the rootsy rock of Alabama Shakes, which sounds much more like a band that has been together for a decade rather than less than four years. The band’s debut album, Boys and Girls, garnered a huge hit in “Hold On” and three Grammy nominations. “Hold On” was the second song on Tuesday’s set list. How’s that for confidence?
When it was all said and done, I felt like I had been to a rock show, a tent revival, and a trip back in time to the 1960s, all rolled into one. Howard, 24, said she had never been to Dallas before last night and that the inside of the Palladium was all she had seen of the city. You could tell she was genuinely grateful for the warm reception and enthusiasm of the crowd. “Three years ago, we couldn’t even get a gig in our hometown,” she said. That’s no longer an issue for Alabama Shakes, which is definitely now on my list of must-see bands when it rolls through town again.
I was a little underwhelmed by slow-paced opening acts Sam Doores and the Tumbleweeds and Michael Kiwanuka, but I did enjoy when both acts got together for a cover of Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers.” Then again, pretty much any opening act would have been overshadowed by the Shakes.