Monday, July 29, 2013

Top concerts: Alabama Shakes

Last week, I experienced what I anticipate will be one of the best concerts of my lifetime: Alabama Shakes at the Orpheum in Vancouver.

Alabama Shakes and I have a relationship of sorts. About one year ago, when I was feeling at my worst during chemo - exhausted physically, emotionally, spiritually - George told me to listen to a band he'd just heard on YouTube. It was Alabama Shakes' "Hold On". I was mesmerized.

Not only is Brittany Howard's voice, often described as a mash-up between Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin, phenomenally powerful, but the lyrics were exactly what I needed to hear at that point in my life. And today, there are still moments when I need someone to tell me to hold on.

I watched two more videos and googled Alabama Shakes. And I bought their CD, Boys and Girls.

Thank you lady luck

Then just this past spring I saw something online about Alabama Shakes moving their show to the Orpheum. "Say what?!" I thought. I had somehow missed that they were even coming. But a change to a larger venue. This meant more tickets would be sold - hallelujah!

I expected big things. And Alabama Shakes delivered.

Hurray for the Riff Raff

They started off with an excellent opening act, Hurray for the Riff Raff. Definitely a country flavour. Singer Alynda lee Segarra's voice reminded me of different people at different times, Stevie Nicks with a dash of Margo Timmins (Cowboy Junkies), but mainly Yvette Narlock (solo artist formerly of Mollies Revenge, Yve Adam).

I bought their CD Look Out Mama after their set. I was pleasantly surprised when the singer announced she'd be at the merch table. In fact, the entire band was there and I got my CD signed. I spoke briefly with one of them about Alabama Shakes and how I first heard them when I was going through a challenging time in my life. "Yep, doctors should prescribe it. Music is the best medicine," he said.

Time for a dose

Indeed, Alabama Shakes proved to be a the kind of medicine that doesn't just make you feel passable, but uplifts you without a comedown and lasts, possibly for a lifetime.

At one point, Howard wondered out loud why she bothered doing her hair before shows. After rocking out considerably, her do was undone, but the audience didn't care. In fact, the fact that she rocked that hard made us love her that much more. If we wanted done up, we'd have shelled out for one of those lipsync "artists" wearing a headset mic.

Alabama Shakes made me do one thing I've never done at a show (and I've mocked others for doing). I cried. Not once, not twice, but three times. The first time, obviously, during "Hold On". The second because of Howard's lovely intro to "Boys and Girls" during which she talked about her best childhood friend and how eventually they were told they shouldn't be friends any more. It made me think of my son and some of his very good friends who happen to be girls.

The third set of tears, I have to admit I can't remember which song inspired it. What I do remember was it was a sweet release.

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