Review + Photography by John Hayhurst

Birmingham Alabama Soul comes to Leeds and Saint Paul Janeway preaches to the converted. St. Paul & The Broken Bones live at the Irish Centre.

This gig was supposed to be at The Brudenell, then I saw it advertised as the O2 Academy, eventually we are advised that it has been moved to the Irish Centre, which is exactly where I saw St Paul & the Broken Bones 2 years ago. Inside, this place resembles a large working men’s club with two levels and a handful of seats spread along the walls. It probably hasn’t changed much in 30 years and tonight it will play host to some slick blues and funky soul, some of the best and authentic southern American soul you will see this side of Otis Redding.

St. Paul & The Broken Bones

The age demographics inside this venue are decidedly 35 plus, with a handful of students curious to see what the fuss is about. I witnessed St Paul & The Broken Bones pull in around five to ten thousand people at Glastonbury some years ago, they were on a usually quiet Saturday lunchtime slot, and all those passing through to other stages or food stalls stopped what they were doing to witness this proper soul band from the southern states. Paul Janeway is the master of ceremonies, the band are sublimely talented, and the almost reverend Paul walks out on to the Leeds stage like a preacher about to deliver a sermon of great magnitude, he is wearing a glittery cape, sparkly shoes and a big smile on his face, the rest of the band are suited and booted. What proceeds is an example of sheer entertainment and some superb soul/blues vocals, think Al Green complete with soprano moments but bizarrely delivered by someone looking like chatty man Alan Carr. It is a combination that doesn’t compute in your brain, just how is that voice coming from this person?… a mystery, but an enjoyable one all the same.

St. Paul & The Broken Bones

No one is going to steal the spotlight from Paul Janeway tonight, but bassist Jesse Phillips, guitarist Browan Lollar, drummer Andrew Lee, trumpeter Allen Bransetter, trombonist Chad Fisher, saxophonist Amari Ansari and keyboardist Al Gamble do a very fine job in providing the backing to that voice. They get a couple of chances too to show off as Janeway takes a break for 5 minutes.

Opening with new song ‘LivWithoutU’ which on the set list looks like a tribute to Prince but is in fact a track from their recently released album ‘Young Sick Camellia’, one of 7 new songs they will play from the album, tonight was a bit of a challenge for those fans expecting the usual big numbers. The band do follow that with the funkadelic and older ‘Flow with It’ and Janeway erupts into one of the best dad dancers ever, a shimmy to the left, then right, a hand in the air as if to shade his eyes from some divine light, and then this voice that really should not be coming out of that face.

St. Paul & The Broken Bones

There is a funky 3-piece brass section, occasionally punctuated by some peaceful flute introductions, before turning into a dirty soul brass pump outfit, worthy of backing James Brown. Hammond organ and some rocking guitar breaks. Personal favourite ‘All I Ever Wonder’ is next with its chorus line of “I can’t tell what side I’m on, I can’t tell what’s right or wrong, we ain’t ever going to sing one song” it sounds like he’s singing a Brexit mantra.

Janeway recalls “last time we played here someone stuck their finger up my butt”. Whether he liked it or not, he didn’t say, however they left his walkabout song ‘Broken Bones and Pocket Change’ for the last encore so he wasn’t about to veer too far away from the stage too early.

St. Paul & The Broken Bones

Following ‘Grass is Greener’ we get the lowpoint of the set which is a triple whammy of new songs and some which have them strolling into a different territory, almost prog like with synth space sounds a plenty. Couldn’t help but feel that they should have split the tracks up, but nevermind – once we get ‘GotitBad’ we are back in the funky disco zone and everything is alright.

Latest single ‘Apollo’ is easily the best track from the new album, an instant classic, a little like a souled out Rolling Stones ‘Miss You’, which I’m sure will be in their set for years to come. The band do look like they have stepped out from an accountants firm to play a few songs, only drummer Andrew Lee who is festooned with some long hair looks like he should playing in this band. Bassist Jesse Phillips headband and glasses look could not be more misplaced. That’s the surprise of this band, if you just heard them on record you would expect them to be funky black soul band from the Memphis Stax label – when you see them on stage it’s a shock to the system.

St. Paul & The Broken Bones

The encore is a slow build-up of ‘Sanctify’ which is an incredible combo of guitar, organ and brass with the now trademark Paul Janeway outpouring of his soul on the grateful audience. Dancing classic ‘Call Me’ follows, and then a finale of ‘Broken Bones and Pocket Change’

This is about as authentic as southern soul gets, almost gospel but thankfully without the hallelujahs and diva vocal scales. All delivered with a tongue in cheek grin and some dance moves from a character that Matt Lucas could probably mimic really well. A much-needed tonic for everyone in Leeds tonight, and if you get the chance to go to one of their gigs then don’t hesitate, they really don’t play these shores often enough.

St. Paul & The Broken Bones

SETLIST: LivWithOutU / Flow With It (You Got Me Feeling Like) / All I Ever Wonder / Like a Mighty River / Grass is Greener / Mr Invisible / Convex / NASA / GotItBad / Apollo / Bruised Fruit / ENCORE: Sanctify / Call Me / Broken Bones & Pocket Change

LISTENING: ‘Half the City’ album released 2015, New Album ‘Young Sick Camellia’ released 7th Sept 2018

WATCHING: Apollo on Jimmy Kimmel Live

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