September 7th, 2013 at 10:07 am
Friday night’s set by the Alabama Shakes is the exactly kind of concert Northwest Arkansas has been clamoring for.
And residents rose the the occasion in terms of exuberance and their sheer numbers.
The Arkansas Music Pavilion took a fair amount of criticism over the years as a spot where artists went out to pasture, a fitting reference because the tent structure is now located at the fairgrounds. Those remarks were often earned — there were far too many Eddie Moneys and Goo Goo Dolls type acts in the earlier years of the venue.
In the last few years, the AMP has worked to shed that image, and tried to become a little more hip in the process. A few marquee names (Miranda Lambert comes to mind) passed through last year and there have been some critically acclaimed acts of slightly lesser attendance draw (i.e. Wilco) too.
But perhaps none of those bands were ever quite as hip or current as the Alabama Shakes, who went from nobodies to stars nearly overnight. They drew about 3,000 fans to the venue on a warm fall evening, and most of them came to sing along.
The Alabama Shakes have only one full-length studio recording, “Boys & Girls,” but it is a rather good one. During their show, they would play the majority of those tracks live, sprinkling in a few new ones into the mix.
When the band did play one from the record, particularly the uptempo blasts “Hold On” and “Hang Loose,” the crowd responded. The band was tight and accurate in relaying those songs, but an Alabama Shakes concert is very much about Brittany Howard and very little about anything else. Powerful, and rarely subtle, she seemed at ease with the crowd while offering banter that seemed just as appropriate for a small room as it was for the outdoor arena.
Her unpretentiousness — and really, the band’s too — was an asset during the 85-minute set. The group blends old rock ‘n’ roll with soul and gospel and delivers that in a straightforward manner.
It felt like a big city rock show, something we can only hope we see again in this market soon.
A note about the opener: I only caught the last two songs of Fly Golden Eagle‘s set. I’d listened to the band’s latest album coming into the show, but they were better than that live. I wish I would have watched more. Anyone have additional thoughts?