St. Paul and the Broken Bones, with John & Jacob
RecordBar, Kansas City
Tuesday, June 3
For the full slideshow, go here.
Read our interview with Paul Janeway here.
Jesus must have been really upset when Paul Janeway decided not to recruit in his name. Last night at RecordBar, the would-be pastor and frontman for Birmingham, Alabama's St. Paul and the Broken Bones got a flock of devotees moving, shaking and fervently believing in the religion that Janeway was offering: soul.
The sold-out crowd knew exactly what they were signing up for. As I edged my way to the front of the stage as it was being changed over from the openers John & Jacob, a smiling fan, pressed front and center against the stage, asked me if I intended on standing next to him. I stared, thinking him rude, but he quickly explained: "It's just that I'm going to be doing a lot of dancing. I mean a lot
And he did - along with most others in the immediate area, just as soon as the six Broken Bones piled onstage for the first song, a cover of Booker T. and the M.G.'s "Chicken Pox." As a guitarist, bass player, drummer, keyboardist, trumpeter and trombone player crowded the small area, Janeway - our St. Paul - waited at the edge, nodding his head, sipping water. Dressed in a gray suit, Easter-pink shirt, white dress shoes and Buddy Holly glasses with a red "Alabama" button stuck to his lapel, he looked more like a dressed-up dentist than the enigmatic crooner he sounds to be on the band's February-released debut record, Half the City
. That all changed when Janeway stepped onstage for "Don't Mean a Thing."
If you've listened to Half the City
or seen the YouTube clips of St. Paul and the Broken Bones doing their thing, as I have, you're likely to think that you are prepared for the live experience. That is false. There is no preparing for what this band does. Janeway opens his mouth and out pours raw emotion, the sort of thing that gave Otis Redding and Sam Cooke their legacy.
Janeway has studied those men closely. His voice, that immeasurably powerful instrument, swells effortlessly. On "Don't Mean a Thing," and on plenty songs after it, Janeway stepped up to the edge of the stage, leaning into the crowd, bellowing out the verses; then, suddenly, he was skipping up into a dulcet falsetto like it was nothing. One moment grit and grime, the next moment so sweet, your teeth hurt.
In his studies of the old-school soul masters, Janeway clearly got the chapter on James Brown memorized. He shimmied, shaked, shoulder-rolled, bended his back and moonwalked, depending on the song. On "Half the City," he dipped the microphone as though it were the love of his life; ladies around me swooned. On "The Glow," he sank to his knees, slapped the floor and beat his chest as he rose up again. During the closing "Try a Little Tenderness," Janeway crumpled to the stage in exhaustion while a couple of band members patted his sweat-soaked jacket, and he rose up again to deliver the crushing finale.
There was a lot to keep track of onstage - guitarist Browan Loller could have a mighty career of his own, based on the toe-curling solos he delivered last night - but no one commanded attention more than Janeway. And every time he said, "Thank you" after a song, you were afraid it was all over.
"Did someone just say encore?" Janeway asked the audience at the end of "Dixie Rothko." "What kind of show you think this is, three songs and we're done?" He laughed, launched into "I'm Torn Up," adjusting his jumbled pocket square as he sang. Then: "Let's talk for a second. We've only got 45 minutes of original material, but we don't like playing 45-minute shows. We want you to get your $10 worth or whatever you paid for your show - I hope we're worth more than that, but maybe not." Janeway laughed again, good-naturedly, but as the show had only a $12 cover, I couldn't help thinking he was right.
As the band began Sam Cooke's "Shake," I checked the set list I had snapped earlier onstage: 19 songs total, despite just 12 originals on Half the City
. Janeway and his band would play for an hour and a half. That kind of delivery is an act of love - blind love, considering the sweltering temperatures at RecordBar last night. Bassist Jesse Phillips took off his oversized hat to fan himself in a free moment. Shirts were soaked with perspiration.
"Oh, man, I'm burning up. We'll have to start taking our clothes off in a second," Janeway said at one point. The crowd boisterously cheered. "I know y'all don't want to see that shit."
Rare talent as he is, Janeway managed to keep the energy high all night. There was no lag in the set, not once, and the audience was rapturously engaged throughout - no small feat, considering the early weeknight and late hour.
"This is one hell of a first show in Kansas City," Janeway said. "Everybody here and ready to have a good time. This is a normal night in Kansas City or what?"
Far from a normal night, but that is the power of St. Paul and the Broken Bones: shaking down everyday miracles from the universal pulpit that is the stage.
: Kind of want them to do a cover of "99 Problems." A little bit.
Set list (approximate, if there are corrections, please note them in the comments)
Chicken Pox (Booker T. and the M.G.'s)
Don't Mean a Thing
I'm Torn Up
Shake (Sam Cooke)
Half the City
Broken Bones & Pocket Change
99 and ½ (Hezekiah Walker)
Like a Mighty River
Let It Be So
Down in the Valley
Grass Is Greener
Make It Rain (Tom Waits)
Let Me Roll It (Paul McCartney)
Try a Little Tenderness (Otis Redding)
For more photos, go here. For The Pitch's interview with Paul Janeway, go here.