The Alabama Shakes take Asheville to Church

The Alabama Shakes take Asheville to Church image

I once heard Jeff Tweedy banter to a crowd that, “going to a rock concert is a lot like going to church,” and he’s right in some respects. The analogy isn’t meant to create some overzealous comparison of music to a higher power, but more so the act of bringing people together and occasionally raising up in a singular voice. It’s those moments that weaken your knees or give you the chills. Most groups, if the crowd is into it, can provide one maybe two of those moments a show; a familiar lyric recited in unison, that collective feeling of togetherness.  

What Brittany Howard and the Alabama Shakes brought to the stage Tuesday night at the U.S Cellular Center in downtown Asheville takes Tweedy’s comparison and runs with it. No, the crowd couldn’t match the notes Brittany blasted from center stage, but each and every note belted brought that weak-in-your-knees feeling. Not only does Brittany bring everything she has vocally, she does it while absolutely shredding the six-string. Her extremely talented friends and band mates are along for the ride, including three-piece backing vocals (her choir), but Brittany is truly the star of the show.

With all this church talk it sounds as though we attended a gospel show last night and that’s not an entirely false statement. What makes the Alabama Shakes a band that can fill a venue like the U.S. Cellular Center with such an eclectic crowd is their unabashed ability to explore every nook and cranny of the American musical experience. In a matter of a few songs it is not rare for the Alabama Shakes to jump around from soul to punk to gospel to rockabilly effortlessly, and there always seems to be room for a heavy-handed guitar solo.

As I mentioned in my preview earlier this week, the Alabama Shakes come with a motive and a purpose. They want to shake your soul and let you ride that emotional wave. When Howard sank her teeth into “Be Mine” from their first album Boys & Girls, she brought enough soul to embellish even the shortest of middle school relationships. It’s that sort of energy that makes the Alabama Shakes a joy to see.

As Brittany Howard exited the stage late Tuesday night she expressed her gratitude for the Asheville crowd, which was large and energetic for much of the night. The Alabama Shakes brought the crowd together for a few of those special moments, and for that they deserve the audience’s gratitude. It wasn’t exactly like being at church, but it had the power to fill the same place in hearts and souls. I can only hope to experience it more often!

Image Credits:
All photos by Peter Carpenter of Asheville Music Guide