Back in March when I made my annual pilgrimage to the Mann box office to buy my season’s tickets (to avoid the dreaded service fees), I thought the last show of the season would be a tempered time in fall weather and a mellow way to end a great Mann season. Boy, was I wrong on all levels. Alabama Shakes was the most crowded, most raucous show of the season in 80-degree weather.
Let me get this out of the way- Brittany Howard, Alabama Shakes front woman, is a badass. Bad. Ass. Badass.
We got there in time to catch the opener, Drive By Truckers (DBT). Interesting fact about these guys, a couple of years ago Alabama Shakes was opening for them. DBT discovered this group and took them under their wing. Now they are opening for them. I love the humility of it all. Obviously, I do not have any real information, but I like to believe that it means artists are completely supportive of each other, they are all about the music and as along as everyone gets to keep playing, who really cares who headlines the show. Again, that is what I choose to believe.
DBT had a longer than usual set and they were pretty good. I am not sure I would go see them alone, but I enjoyed them. They have that Americana sound, sometimes like Johnny Cash, sometimes like Willie Nelson from the “Across the Borderline” album. They have been playing together for a while, so they had that great playing together for a long time vibe. I was sad I didn’t like them more than I did; after all they backed up Bettye LaVette on her comeback album and wrote a fictional opera about a Lynyrd Skynyrd type rock band. I guess the best thing I like about them is that they discovered Alabama Shakes.
Brittany Howard came out on stage to thunderous applause. The Mann was the most crowded than my previous other shows and the wooden roof was vibrating with energy when she launched, almost assaulted, her first song. From there, it was game on.
This 26-year-old African American, not model thin, woman is fronting a 5 member rock and roll white male band with 3 back up singers. They are described as a roots rock band, but they are so much more. I guess they are described that way, because there is no neat description for their music. There was huge gospel influence, lots of blues and rock and roll, and hard-core rock and roll. I read somewhere that one of their first shows they covered the likes of Led Zeppelin, James Brown, Otis Redding, and AC/DC. That gives you an idea.
Here is what I do know. It was an incredibly emotional show. Just when you thought you could not dance, hoot, clap harder, Brittany took you on to another level. She screamed, wailed, whispered, shook her glasses and gave so much of herself during the show that I actually started to worry for her. I am unclear how she will keep this pace up for a long career. Good lord, she is only 26. What was also interesting is that while she had a huge stage presence, there was absolutely no chit chat or crowd interaction. Maybe she said hello in the beginning and thank you at the end, but that was basically it. While I continue to worry about her pace and her voice for longevity, my main takeaway is “Badass, Bad, Ass, Badass.”