LIVE: St. Paul & the Broken Bones @ The Egg, 3/5/17

April 4th, 2017, 4:00 pm by Greg

Review by Steven Stock

I walked into this show totally unfamiliar with the gospel of St. Paul & the Broken Bones. “It’s time to lose yourself,” demanded the slightly pudgy white guy roaming across the stage, looking like James Corden, singing like James Brown. “It’s time to set yourself free.” Ninety-five minutes later I left The Egg a changed man: not just a convert, not just a believer, but a veritable disciple.

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It took me a while to see the light, I’ll confess. When Paul Janeway sang “I’ll Be Your Woman,” first stretching “woman” for an ungodly long time, then reaching notes that only dogs could properly discern, I was confused. The Broken Bones compounded my perplexity: what are these white guys doing playing soul music, and what kind of soul band utilizes a damn flute?

I spent a lot of time pondering these questions even as I enjoyed “I’m Torn Up” and “Midnight on the Earth.” Then Janeway announced “It’s time to dance, alright? Whether you wanna stand up or sit down, I don’t care but you’re gonna move. You can’t resist.”

The utterly convincing version of Van Morrison’s “I’ve Been Working” that followed transformed my reservations into something close to ecstasy. It all suddenly made sense: if a white kid from Belfast, Northern Ireland could be utterly transfixed by the blues, why wouldn’t white musicians from Birmingham, Alabama embrace soul music?

Janeway and his vocal pyrotechnics commanded much of the spotlight, particularly when he left the stage and headed up the aisles of the Hart Theatre, laying hands on the audience in benediction and singing the hell out of “Broken Bones & Pocket Change.”

The entire band was divine as well, especially versatile guitarist Browan Lollar. Longtime trumpeter Allen Branstetter (like Lollar, an Alabama native) was recently augmented by New Orleans resident Jason Mingledorff on sax (and that damn flute) and Birmingham’s Chad Fisher on trombone to create a full-fledged horn section. Memphis’ Al Gamble played gospel-inflected organ and piano parts, while Birmingham’s Andrew Lee on drums and Canadian Jesse Phillips on bass propelled the prayers.

“Otis?” asked Janeway. “You wanna hear an Otis? Alright, now listen: we haven’t done this this whole tour. Because you screamed we’re just bowing to peer pressure, alright? I don’t want anybody to go home and be like ‘they didn’t do that.’ This is for you!” And with that the band launched into a spellbinding rendition of “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.”

Opener Aaron Lee Tasjan then joined the ensemble onstage for a rather more unlikely cover, a joyous romp through David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream,” with Tasjan’s soaring guitar solo leading the horn section to a glorious climax. The sermon ended with a gospel-tinged version of “Burning Rome,” Gamble shining on organ.

NOTE: If you missed their concert at The Egg, you’ll have a few more opportunities to catch St. Paul & the Broken Bones in action as they swing back this way for upcoming shows at the Academy of Music in Northampton (Tuesday, June 13), Mountain Jam at Hunter Mountain (Friday-Sunday, June 17) and Wanderlust Festival at Stratton Mountain (Saturday, June 24).

SECOND OPINIONS:
Ken Thurman’s review at The Times Union

ST. PAUL & THE BROKEN BONES SET LIST
Crumbling Light Posts, Pt. 1
Flow with It (You Got Me Feeling Like)
Like A Mighty River
I’ll Be Your Woman
Tears in the Diamond
All I Ever Wonder
I’m Torn Up
??? (instrumental)
Brain Matter
Waves
Midnight on the Earth
I’ve Been Working (Van Morrison)
Broken Bones & Pocket Change
Call Me
Sanctify
Is It Me
I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (Otis Redding)
Moonage Daydream (David Bowie)
Burning Rome