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Live: Alabama Shakes

Thrilling affirmation of southern rock’s bright new hope.

Those of a certain age may recall the 70s press ad that insisted ‘Blondie Is A Group!’, an exasperated attempt to prise the attention away from Debbie Harry and distribute it evenly across the band. It failed spectacularly.

A similar thing, you feel, is happening with Alabama Shakes, whose Brittany Howard is as eminently watchable as any frontperson you might care to name.

Tonight, some of the finer nuances of latest album Sound & Colour get trampled by sheer might and volume, but it’s not to the detriment of the show itself. Howard dominates, whether by leading the urgent punk-funk of I Don’t Wanna Fight or decanting the rousing entreaties of Miss You, a soul stirrer that might have been made for Otis Redding. The band are wonderful too, agile and loose on the Curtis Mayfield-ish Guess Who and plain bolshy on The Greatest. Guitarist Heath Fogg sounds like a curious trade-off between Steve Cropper and Mick Ronson, while bassist Zac Cockrell plants roots deep in southern soul, the rhythmic tick-tocking of his head about as animated as he’s ever likely to get. They though are content to skulk about in the shadows while Howard does her thing, strutting and howling. At times it could be Mahalia Jackson fronting The Swampers, or even Bon Scott heading up the M.G.’s. Either way it’s bloody exhilarating.

Classic Rock 214: Lives