Alabama Shakes at The Olympia on 14th November 2012

From humble small town beginnings to a debut album that went stratospheric it’s been quite a ride for Alabama Shakes. Their progression has been very interesting, even more so when you look at the list of Irish venues they’ve played this year. From the bunker-esque Academy 2, to the sprawling main stage at Electric Picnic and now to the gracefully aged Olympia Theatre.

Tonight’s Olympia show plays out a lot like their career to date. It starts modest and small. A little refrained and humble in its abilities. However as the setlist stacks up the band get a lot more comfortable. They grow in confidence with every song. Brittany and co. take the risky and unusual move of getting the hits out of the way first. In the initial 20 minutes we’ve heard Goin’ to the Party, Hold On and Hang Loose. It’s a ballsy move that suggests the band are either eager to impress from the get-go or they’ve got a trick up their sleeve.

Joking with the crowd and strutting across the stage. This all hints at the band they’re becoming. When Brittany reaches full show-woman mode you have to remind yourself that this is a band still touring their first release so the future is very promising indeed. Breaking a string during I Found You does nothing to phase this frontwoman who pays little attention to the mishap and just gets on with the song. Even the pre-song banter is spot on. Localising what you say to the crowd can be tough so most bands play it safe but Alabama Shakes are right on the money with “You got the castles, you got the sheep, you got the black sausage, and you got the talkin’ water and we came here cos’ ya like to party“.

After Hold On there’s a definite lull from the crowd as a lot of people think they can relax now that they’ve heard the hit. This has Alabama Shakes playing the underdog as they work to recapture some people’s full attention. It doesn’t take long as Rise to the Sun gets everyone back on board with a rousing, chant-along chorus.

Given that the band are playing a headline show with a single 40 minute album under their belt, it’s no surprise that there would be new songs played. What direction would they take? Well that was a little less certain. Would there be a departure from their current cut of soulful southern rock or would they mix things up a bit and progress as a band? Interestingly it’s the latter. The majority of ‘Boys & Girls’ was a mid-to-slow paced affair with strong vocal hooks. The new ones are a lot more straight to the point. They’re bluesier with less emphasis on the melody. They’re also an awful lot of fun to hear live. If you were impressed by Brittany’s voice before there’s some very good news as it’s gets even better.

Alabama Shakes Photo Gallery

Photos: Kieran Frost