St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Sean Rowe Fitzgerald's February 6, 2015
St. Paul & the Broken Bones, the Southern blues band from Alabama, is experiencing skyrocketing popularity as they landed in Space City to perform for a packed house. Friday night's show at Fitzgerald's had been sold out for nearly a month, even several weeks before a successful spot on CBS' The Late Show won them a ringing endorsement from David Letterman.
The comedian told the group that the first time he heard them he "screamed until he cried." But as much excitement there is surrounding them, there was also some nervousness this week -- front man Paul Janeway was battling a nasty case of strep throat, which had some fans questioning whether the show would have to be rescheduled to a later date.
The Broken Bones took the stage without Janeway for "Simple Song," where bassist Jesse Phillips and drummer Andrew Lee laid down a groovy foundation for Browan Lollar to work his squealing magic on his beautiful Reverend Guitar.
Janeway popped out after the instrumental and approached the microphone with swagger and a smile. Working the crowd and getting screams each time he uttered the name of our fine city and stepping up and almost off of the small stage that could not seemingly contain his energy. A few songs into the show, he turned his head to the side and took a couple of hits of medicated throat spray, using it more often as the night wore on.
The Broken Bones' debut album, Half the City, runs just under 40 minutes, but the group played just under two hours by extending their own songs and by covering expected artists like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding. However, it was a pleasant surprise to hear covers of Radiohead's "Fake Plastic Trees" and David Bowie's "Moonage Daydream."
The baby-faced blues man's looks do not match his voice; it's almost as he made a deal with the devil to get that soulful sound. Of course that is not the case, as Janeway was raised in the church and developed his skills through song worship back in Alabama. Still, it was hard not to chuckle hearing him say, "Hey girl, yeah you way back there. That's right you, sweetie. I'm talking to you," when you realized that his a speaking voice sounds like the plus-size comedian Ralphie May.
From jumping, sliding and shimmying across the stage like "the hardest working man in show business" James Brown, down to taking the cap off of his water bottle, the front man did absolutely everything with flair, but you wouldn't expect less coming from a man wearing golden dress shoes.
Near the end of the show, he staggered to one knee and then all the way to the ground where he acted as he passed out while the band played on but watched him with a concerned eye. Janeway arose with a face that looked as if Beelzebub temporarily possessed him before powering through the final songs during the encore.
Story continues on the next page.
Opener Sean Rowe was a one-(mad)man jam band. The singer-songwriter took the stage with his busted-up Takamine, which looked more like a weathered football player than a guitar, what with all the tape holding it together. Rowe warmed the chatty crowed with a voice that sounded like a cross between Gordon Lightfoot and Bruce Springsteen. The choppy, bouncy tunes "Shine My Diamond Ring" and "Desiree" had some of the ladies swinging their hips to the sweet lyrics emanating from Rowe's full beard. His ability to strum and pick through his songs earned him a loud and well-deserved respect from the full venue.
However, not everyone in the joint was respectful. Between sets, a lady attempted to cross through the beer line and asked politely to get through. She reportedly said excuse me several times before some jerk elbowed her in the chest, which launched her back about three people deep. Onlookers informed him that she was Lauren Oakes, the audio engineer and she was simply trying to get to the sound booth to do her job.
Security swooped in and quickly removed him as he apologized, saying he didn't know who it was. This person's crappy behavior caused him to miss out on one helluva show. In such circumstances, it doesn't matter who may be trying to get through. Just be polite.
The Crowd: Reminiscent of pre-hipster times at the old blues staple, the Gallant Knight.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Only seven minutes for the beer line. That's not bad."
ST. PAUL SET LIST
Simple Song Don't Mean a Thing Sugar Dyed Dixie Rothko I'm Torn Up Shake (Sam Cooke Cover) Half the City Broken Bones & Pocket Change 99 ½ (Wilson Pickett Cover) Let It Be So Fake Plastic Trees (Radiohead Cover) Down In The Valley (Otis Redding Cover) It's Midnight Like a Mighty River Grass Is Greener
Moonage Daydream (David Bowie Cover) Call Me Try A Little Tenderness (Otis Redding Cover)
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