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Alabama Shakes: Soul, Timeless Tunes, and Raw Talent at the Fillmore Miami Beach

Photo by Marta Xochilt Perez

Alabama Shakes

Fillmore Miami Beach

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Better Than: An abbreviated Kendrick Lamar set, a weird party not thrown by Lady Gaga on North Beach, drinking warm beer in Wynwood.

As the rest of South Beach clamored about to secret parties, cramped galleries, and other Basel diversions, the lavish Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater housed a proper soul revival, courtesy of the Alabama Shakes.

The venue was packed with an unexpectedly large crowd to welcome the Shakes with raised hands and raised voices, and the band made sure its inaugural performance in Miami was one to remember.

Photo by Marta Xochilt Perez

Following a rousing performance of drawling Southern rock by tour mates, Clear Plastic Masks, the members of the Alabama Shakes hit the stage and began to stir the emotions of the excitable crowd with the soft plunking of guitar strings and the tickling of electric piano keys -- gently easing into the syrupy soul of "Rise to the Sun."

Photo by Marta Xochilt Perez

There was a palpable eagerness rippling through the crowd as it anticipated the first of singer-guitarist Brittany Howard's exuberant shouts, and the bridge to "Rise to the Sun" brought the audience to an absolute roar when Howard stabbed and howled with the kind of pure conviction and unabashed honesty that put the band on the map.

Photo by Marta Xochilt Perez

The set moved swiftly through the Shakes' big hits, dispensing with "Hang Loose" and "Hold On" in succession directly after "Rise."

The fans did their best to stick with Howard during the singsongs that took place throughout the night. But despite their efforts, Howard's massive voice soared high above all, with the sincere authority of someone who no doubt wrung these songs from actual experiences.

Photo by Marta Xochilt Perez

During a breather between songs, Howard earnestly said she had "been waiting my whole life to be here." It was a charming moment that spoke of how unaffected the Shakes remain, even amid the major success the band has enjoyed.

The night's performance, however, spoke of a person that may as well have been on the big stage her entire life.

Photo by Marta Xochilt Perez

Howard plucked the intricate guitar part of '50s rock 'n' roll jumper "Mama" out on her shining green Gibson SG before channeling Little Richard and howling away to the delight of the audience, swaying and grooving to the deep cut from one of the band's early EPs.

The song provided yet another opportunity for the Alabama Shakes to display what a dynamic group of players they are, not to mention Howard's abilities as a frontwoman and a truly underrated guitarist.

Photo by Marta Xochilt Perez

The night carried on through the Shakes' range of slow grooves, soulful jammers, and rollicking primordial rockers. But for us, the moment of distinction was the band's encore. After the loudest encore appeal that we've heard from a crowd in ages, the exasperated group returned to the stage for a three-song final jaunt.

"You Ain't Alone" ended the show, and gently brought things down from the jump and swagger of "Heavy Chevy." The song brought with it a flood of emotion from Howard and company that reaffirmed, yet again, that timeless tunes, raw talent, and human emotion conquer all, and despite how many people were fighting to catch Kendrick Lamar spit for 25 minutes, those at the Fillmore got the best show of the night -- and possibly the rest of the year.

Photo by Marta Xochilt Perez

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: Casual fan turned believer.

Random Detail: Bassist Zac Cockrell looked like (and played like) he might be Donald Duck Dunn's missing child.

Alabama Shakes' Setlist:

-"Rise to the Sun"

-"Hang Loose"

-"Hold On"

-"Always Alright"

-"I Found You"


-"Making Me Itch"

-"Worryin' Blues"


-"Boys & Girls"

-"Be Mine"

-"Gimme All Yo Love"

-"Gospel Song"

-"On Your Way"

-"Heat Lightning"

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-"I Ain't the Same

-"Heavy Chevy

-"You Ain't Alone

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