Even with an uncommonly early start time at One Eyed Jacks—9 p.m. for the headliner!—the Alabama Shakes packed the room to the point that those of us who arrived shortly before 9 p.m. bumped into an impenetrable wall of backs five or so feet inside the door. But the show was a reminder that soul is an attribute, not a genre. It’s a passion that singer Brittany Howard conveys, not an amp setting, chord progression or set of lyrical tropes. The great R&B records weren’t retro when they were made; they were contemporary music, and the Alabama Shakes make soulful rock ‘n’ roll that’s completely contemporary. From my spot at the back of the room, it was hard to break down song specifics, but only the slow songs left me cold (which could be a function of distance), and song after song had an element that supercharged the moment.
Just by luck, I ended up standing with Scott Bomar, bassist for Memphis R&B band the Bo-Keys, who thought they were “the least contrived band” he’s seen in a while.