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Concert review: Alabama Shakes at the Pearl

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Alabama Shakes frontwoman Brittany Howard, performing July 19 at the Pearl.
Photo: Edison Graff
Chris Bitonti

Three stars

Alabama Shakes July 19, the Pearl.

Friday night’s crowd at the Pearl spanned the spectrum from young hipsters to aged hippies, all braving an intense thunderstorm to attend Alabama Shakes’ first-ever Las Vegas performance. The venue was almost full, and the stage glowed red as the band casually took its place and erupted into their signature blues-rock.

Though the Shakes can switch seamlessly between laid-back sway blues and hard rock, they’re at their best when the music’s up-tempo—that’s when Brittany Howard’s voice can really blaze. Howard drips with soul, and every note pours out of her as her band of stoic enforcers backs her. Howard aside, no one touches a mic onstage, and the show features barely any movement. It doesn’t have to. Everything about the band’s performance feels focused on the music. We knew that when hit song “Hold On” popped up second in the setlist, as if to show the confidence Alabama Shakes have in their small but powerful catalog.

During the 75-minute set, the Shakes played virtually every song they’ve released, including the entirety of last year’s debut album, Boys & Girls. The highlight of the set was “Be Mine,” for which Howard set down and just sang, her voice exploding for the song’s climax. The band’s instrumentation is incredibly simple, as Howard herself explained when we spoke last week: “It’s supposed to have feeling. It doesn’t have to be technical or hard.” That only adds to the songs’ power, like they’ve been boiled down to an essential core with no notes wasted.

Howard thanked the crowd many times for attending despite the rough weather, saying, “I don't know nothing about none of you, but I'm awful glad you came” before she and the Shakes closed out a soulful set with the Little Richard-style jam, “Heavy Chevy.”

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