With the power of a church choir, Brittany Howard belted blues with the soul of Aretha Franklin on Friday at BottleRock Napa Valley. Clad in a canary blue dress and booties, she looked as if she just blew in from a southern country farm.
Launching into the set with “Hold On”, Alabama Shakes blew away spectators, leaving attendees calling out, “Amazing!” and “Damn!”
Offering a bit of backstory, Howard tells how their song “Boys and Girls” came to be. It was a song to her best friend…about “a little girl and a little boy who spent everyday together, but when they started getting older, people told them they were too old to be friends.”
“I thought that was some bullshit, so I wrote him this song.”
Casually confidant, the band, free of pretention, went through their hits including “Be Mine” and “Ain’t I the Same,” displaying fiery riffs and bluesy groans.
Up for three awards at this year’s Grammy’s, the band didn’t win any, but provided evidence of their potential. With a bit more time, they could possess the same proficiency as Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, whom they are already reminiscent of.
It is remarkable to think that just a year ago, Howard was still working for the US Postal Service when their first album “Boys and Girls” was released on Dave Matthew’s label, ATO. Since then, the band has garnered a steady following from Outside Lands to topping online sales charts.
“What a dream, what a dream,” Howard exclaimed. “Sometimes I’m standing on stage like I am right now and I just think about when I was a little girl and how this is always what I wanted to be…it’s pretty epic.”
She then blows into a swing rock tune: “Mercy you, mercy me, why you do it to me?” Enthralled, the crowd breaks out in dance.
Adoring fan, Laura Castellanos, describes what makes Alabama Shakes extraordinary: “She’s raw in a way that isn’t fragile; raw and authentic but never fragile. It speaks to the heart you want to have.”
Undeniably, the group delivered a powerful, captivating set.