10/21/14 – Paradise Rock Club

The Paradise Rock Club twinkled with silver last Tuesday night.

The age of the graying crowd was reflected in the abnormally large bubbles of personal space throughout the venue. Rather than resembling a mass of moist T-shirts, fans of St. Paul and the Broken Bones stood in small friend circles, their light chatter filling in the space between groups. This was no squashed, armpit-in-face, morning-T-commute concert; this was a dinner party.

The Broken Bones crept onstage—looking slick in their usual suits and ties—and broke out into a jazzy number fit for that dinner-party feel. But any air of sophistication quickly dissipated as “St. Paul” (a nickname given to frontman Paul Janeway for his alcohol abstinence) ambled onto the stage. For those who hadn’t seen videos of the band, Mr. Janeway was quite the surprise. A plump, bespectacled white dude is not who you’d imagine behind those pipes.

Looking as dapper as ever, he belted and clapped. He twisted and stuttered. He plunged to the low notes, soared to the high ones. He spun around to conduct the band. He clenched his fists and pointed to the ceiling. He danced with the microphone stand, throwing it down to the ground but always catching it in time, as if it was a woman he didn’t dare to drop.

We stood in awe. We shook limbs and snapped fingers. We tumbled through time with their covers of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding. And the grandma in the special seating section, who was probably alive during the heyday of those late soul greats? She was waving her arms, clapping along. She was jamming as hard as the rest of us. She was ready to get up out of her fold-out chair and dance.

Yet the night could have easily been enjoyable sans Paul. The drummer tskbap-ed his way through the set, slipping in all sorts of impressive fills. The horns blared brilliant melodies, adding in a layer of times past thanks to that big-band sound. Al Gamble‘s piano produced accented rhythms that complemented the drum kit. With time changes, solos, improvisations, and unexpected ditties, there were many times when it was hard to sing along or bob to the beat—but this only made the show even more exciting.

As the end of the night approached, St. Paul and the Broken Bones finished with a predictable encore closer: their hit song “Call Me.” Or so we thought. With the thundering applause not letting up, the band looked at one another. “One more song!” Janeway declared—and they broke into a building rendition of “Try a Little Tenderness.” But the fake-outs weren’t over just yet: Janeway bent over and dropped to his knees, as if signaling the end of the show. His guitarists then appeared at his side to revive him, urging him to rise like snake charmers luring a cobra out of its basket. Jumping up, they let roll another round of, “Squeeze her, don’t tease her, never leave her!” before finally coming to a close.

As the buzzing crowd left, an announcement should have been made over the PA: Ladies and gents, please pick up your jaws as you leave the venue.

Delightfully Dapper: St. Paul and the Broken Bones
  • Fantastic improvisation
  • Both audience and artist played off of the other's energy
  • Reacted to audience's enthusiasm and added an extra encore song
  • Would've liked to hear even more covers

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