South London fell in love with Brittany Howard on Friday night, and it was more than returned by the Alabama Shakes frontwoman in a passionate performance that augurs well for the band’s future.
The band played a frenetic hour of blues rock-and-roll, unpretentious and lovingly crafted, all overlaid with Howard’s deep soul voice, reminiscent of old motown or Janis Joplin. Her crooning, haunting vocals were only matched by the mean guitar lines she drew out of her instrument, all backed up by a band who really knew hoe they wanted to groove.
Recent singles Hang Loose and Hold On saw Howard jumping around the stage, feeding back off the rapturous crowd reception to fill the big, cold Coronet with her warmth and her energy. There was just so much passion in her playing, and in her singing, and a real feeling of love which seemed to pervade all.
For a woman with so much verve, she seemed in constant need of the crowd’s love, feeding off it to drive her performance higher. This became most apparent during You Ain’t Alone, a slower, more introspective piece which saw the tempo slow as she almost seemed to be reassuring herself as much as the one she was addressing. Or perhaps she was just trying to reach out to everyone present.
Clapping for the encore didn’t last long, as drummer Steve Johnson reappeared, cigarette in hand, to spray some unidentified substance onto his cymbals. Whatever it was, it was certainly flammable, made clear as the band kicked into It Ain’t the Same and the flames started to lick around his sticks.
After 18 songs – an impressive feat for a band supporting their debut album – culminated in Heat Lightning, a flaming drumkit wasn’t the only thing leaving a warm glow in the audience’s hearts.