Alabama Shakes – King Tuts – 09/05/12 (Glasgow)
Sometimes music can virtually transcend reality.
It can take you from your immediate surroundings and provide you with a high that no chemical concoction every could.
Your eyes dilate, the hairs rise on your arms, and for a moment in time the sounds created by a band, or a single artist, manages to become the centre of your universe.
A connection is made between those who are creating the music and those who are listening to it.
It can feel like a spiritual experience, and an argument could be made that the path to nirvana is an aural one.
Imagine the band performing as Michelangelo’s God, and the audience as his Adam, while the gap between crackles with the electricity of life.
That’s what it was like witnessing Alabama Shakes on their first visit to Glasgow.
In over thirty years of attending gigs I can count on one hand the occasions that I have felt that primal connection, and I count myself lucky that I have participated in as many as that.
While there are great gigs and phantasmagorical shows that live on in your memory, it is also true that some performances exist as a singularly breathtaking experience.
They go beyond what it is to simply participate in listening to music live.
It’s not every artist or band that can provide that moment, and often when they do it isn’t something that can be repeated on cue.
Instead it would seem that it has to organically come to life.
A certain balance between performer and audience has to be reached, and then maintained.
It doesn’t even seem to be something that needs a physical connection, as when I have been privileged to be in the right place at the right time I would say that the main performer isn’t actually trying to entertain, but instead they have become lost in what they are doing, and that intensely personal evocation of their art is quite possibly where the magic lies.
The connection with the listener is real, but it is also voyeuristic.
I stood stage front, and slightly to the side of Brittany Howard, and was transfixed as she sang.
Every single word, every single syllable, every grunt and yelp was emotionally charged.
What Alabama Shakes did isn’t something that can be captured in a studio or on a television appearance.
No matter how good anyone considers their album to be, or how impressed they are with the live footage that is available, it is still a diluted facsimile of the real deal.
The phrase ‘you had to be there’ has never been more apt.
Previously I have spoken about the similarities in her tone to Janis Joplin, but live there is so much more going on.
There’s the soul of Stax and Muscle Shoals, there’s James Brown, Aretha Franklin, the desperate rawness of Joplin and some emotive Tina Turner all fighting for the upper hand.
None can manage it though as there is only one Brittany Howard.
A singularly inspirational talent who deservedly garners hyperbolic superlatives from critics everywhere she goes
The band themselves are rock solid in support.
Someone said to me that they seemed quite static.
That’s not how I would describe them.
Instead they are the skeleton that provides the framework that everything else hangs on.
They don’t have to pander to show business flourishes.
Instead they simply let their skills as musicians do the talking.
If any of them started throwing rock star shapes then it would demean the performance and Alabama Shakes aren’t about that.
They are all about the music.
It really was a privilege to have been there.
I’ve ran out of things to say that will convey how good the whole show was.
Similar to how some claim to speak in tongues as they are receiving Gods own words straight to them, and that their puny human bodies cannot articulate the message I may just start babbling here.
It really was that good.
If you can’t accept my word on it then go and see them, and I sincerely hope that they are firing on all cylinders and you get turned inside out like I did.