If you do yourself just one favor this year, give your soul a gift it won’t forget.
For anyone who saw their blazing late afternoon sets at ACL last year, you have just a glimmer of insight into the magnetizing experience that is a St. Paul & the Broken Bones show. It is no surprise that they came in second on Paste’s annual “25 Best Live Acts of 2016”; being beat out only by the highly-anticipated reunion of LCD Soundsystem. And honestly, had it not been for the literal resurrection of one of the most in-demand live acts in the U.S. after a five-year “retirement,” they would have easily claimed the top spot.
Months before the list came out naming them one of the most exciting live outfits in the world, St. Paul & the Broken Bones made devout believers of a sweaty, sun-baked crowd out on the Zilker lawn in October of 2016. Donning a flamboyant suit jacket in the bright Texas sun, lead singer Paul Janeway embraced the microphone and the crowd as if they were long lost lovers. Stalking and strutting across the mid-day stage, he commandeered every inch of air on both the platform and the sprawling lawn.
By the time they started their set on the second Sunday of the Austin City Limits Music Festival, there wasn’t an inch of room within a 100-foot radius of the stage. Word had quickly spread of Janeway’s innate and uncanny ability to connect with his audience in a way that feels almost like a merging of beings. This became even more prevalent when he allowed himself to be passed over the crowd in a mutual offering of love, passion, joy, and togetherness; a willing and welcome sacrifice of his own body and soul to the higher power of sensational sound. He and the other seven members of the band do far more than deliver an experience, they are the experience.
While their genre-bending song catalog best fits into the framework of the R&B/ soul scope, to limit this dynamic octet to a single sound box would be a grievous disservice to their expansive offerings. Rather, it seems most likely that the “soul” label has far more to do with the band’s ability to reach in and speak directly to the heart of their audience; to awaken the dark corners of the soul that too often lie dormant and uninspired. Simply put, they possess an inexplicable ability to bring their audience to new life.
Last year saw them hitting another career milestone, when they were invited to open for one of the greatest rock bands of all time, the Rolling Stones. One would think that this presented the most nerve-wracking, star-struck experience a band could have, but Janeway didn’t see it that way. “I love the Rolling Stones, but my train of thought is, you gotta try and blow ‘em off the stage. And that’s still my goal.”
I have never once, in any of the many times I’ve seen them live, been able to turn away from the absolute spectacle that unfolds when they take the stage. If you skip out on this one, I guarantee you’ll regret it – don’t say I didn’t warn you…
For folks in the Dallas area, tickets are still available for their March 30 show at the Bomb Factory. Central Austin has two chances for a soul-sating St. Paul & the Broken Bones session, at either their Stubb’s show on Friday, March 31 or with The Avett Brothers on Saturday, April 1 at the Whitewater Amphitheater.