On January 25th, 2012, KCRW hosted two buzz bands at The Troubadour, The Alabama Shakes and Dry the River. The buzz was was justified.
Dry the River are East London’s answer to Fleet Foxes, with louder guitars. Their songs opened with choir-like harmonies over soft, finger-picked guitars, and would often end with head-banging rave-ups. It was their first show in California, and they admitted that if they had been brought up in CA, their songs would be far sunnier. Frankly, it’s the moodiness of songs like “New Ceremony” that keep the band interesting.
Despite the strength of Dry the River‘s opening set, they couldn’t hold a candle to the Alabama Shakes. Building hype for their upcoming album Boys & Girls, coming out April 9th, it was easy to tell the hype was already built in the packed sold-out show. Combing classic soul with southern rock and a manic punk energy, the Shakes turned the Troubadour into a tent revival. While the band has a fine technical prowess, the real power of the band comes from front-woman Brittany Howard. Like a female Little Richard, Howard has the ability to naturally move from a soothing hymn to an energetic scream, all while holding the audience captivated. She rocks harder than 95% of her male counterparts, while having twice the vocal range.
A bold statement is necessary: The Alabama Shakes are the must-see live act of 2012. If their album can capture just an ounce of their live energy, it may end up being one of the best albums of 2012 as well.