Concert Review: Alabama Shakes & Michael Kiwanuka at The Paramount in Seattle (3/3/13)

as-1Seattle’s Paramount Theater is no stranger to great singers, having set the stage for the likes of Gladys Knight and Frank Sinatra. But when the combination of the Alabama Shakes’ frontwoman Brittany Howard and Michael Kiwanuka hit the stage on March 3, it may have seen the most powerful and unique voices in its storied history.

Hitting the road following the recent Grammy nominations for their album Boys & Girls, the Alabama Shakes’ live sound was as clean as one would expect a Grammy nominated band to sound, so much so that it even marked an improvement over their studio recordings.

alabama-shakes-2From the second they hit the stage, Howard’s booming voice and flailing hair took control of the crowd and never let go, as she pounded on her guitar in route to shredding more than a few strings on her guitar by the second song. As great as Howard was in center stage, it was hard not to notice a backing band that seemed apathetic to the 2,800-person sold out crowd in front of them. Heads to the ground, the band’s performance was much more fitting for a studio session than a sold out American tour.

Once Howard put down the guitar though, her charisma from one side of the stage to the other was enough to almost forget there was anyone behind her. For an hour and a half, she filled the room with a voice that seems destined for the arena, a stage that may not be too far off in the distance.

michael-kiwanuka-liveBefore the Alabama Shakes hit the stage, British singer-songwriter Michael Kiwanuka lubed up the crowd with his raw, but soothing voice. Having seen Kiwanuka perform previously with the live band, I was a bit shocked when he entered the stage with only a bass player by his side.

While the two seemed small on the massive stage, any concerns over the minimalist setup were immediately erased once his voice spread throughout the room with ease. Highlighted by the performance of his hit song “Home Again”, Kiwanuka’s voice and endearing stage presence made it clear that it is only a matter of time until he wins over American music fans much like his headlining counterparts.

Be sure to check out one of the Alabama Shakes’ remaining tour dates:

  • 03/05 – Oakland, CA @ The Fox Theater
  • 03/06 – Davis, CA @ Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts
  • 03/08 – Salt Lake City, UT @ The Saltair
  • 03/09 – Denver, CO @ Ogden Theatre
  • 03/10 – Kansas City, MO @ Uptown Theatre
  • 03/12 – Dallas, TX @ Palladium Ballroom
  • 03/15 – New Orleans, LA @ The Sugar Mill
  • 03/16 – Jackson, MS @ Hal + Mal’s Street Dance

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