Alabama Shakes hold on for one more Minnesota gig


REVIEW: About to wrap up touring behind its debut album, the band held up strong at Cabooze Plaza.

Brittany Howard and Alabama Shakes came to Cabooze Plaza on Sunday fresh from a U.K. tour that included a gig at the Hard Rock Calling Festival.

“Thank you for coming out to the parking lot.”

Alabama Shakes frontwoman Brittany Howard didn’t buy into the fancier “Cabooze Plaza” name, but instead she called it like she saw it Sunday night at Minneapolis’s biker lot turned outdoor venue. Likewise, Howard’s band didn’t add anything fancy to the performance they gave this time last year inside First Avenue, but they made out just fine playing the material that made them the best breakout band of 2012.

Sunday’s 85-minute performance was a plain reminder of just how far they’ve come, too, since all 4,000 tickets sold out in minutes. Yes, they pretty much had to play the parking lot for lack of anywhere else. Not bad for only the second time in town.

Performing one of the last shows in the tour cycle behind their debut album, the truly Alabaman soul-rockers sounded a little ragged and uninvested at first, as one might expect a year and a half into playing mostly the same material. The opener “Hang Loose” hung there sluggishly, and a little Dead-like guitar jamming didn’t add any spark to “Rise to the Sun.” After fans excitedly sang along to “Hold On,” Howard told them, “I’m trying to get there where I feel as good as some of you.”

Still somewhat awkward and gawkish at last year’s show, Howard seemed more at ease Sunday and eventually proved more compelling. She raised a loud cheer by emphatically delivering the line, “I don’t give a [bleep] about your intentions,” in “Always Alright,” which two different people standing around me announced to their friends as “that song from ‘Silver Linings Playbook.’” She also got downright gritty on her Gibson SG guitar – a visual throwback to Sister Rosetta Tharpe – in the more straight-rocking, Chuck Berry-ish grinder “Makin’ Me Itch,” one of two new songs sprinkled into the set list.

By the time the band got to the slower, stormier vocal showpieces “Heartbreaker” and “Be Mine,” both Howard and the crowd were fully loaded. Guitarist Heath Fogg strutted his stuff in “Be Mine” as well, playing snaky lines that reverberated off the walls of the neighboring bars. The 2012 album outtakes “Heavy Chevy” and especially “Heat Lightning” proved to be much more than set filler in the encore, ending the show with a powerful wallop.

It’ll certainly serve the band well to have more songs to choose from next time around, presumably after the sophomore album lands. By then, though, they may be running short on Twin Cities venues to fit them. Here’s the full set list from Sunday:

Hang Loose  /  Rise to the Sun  /  Hold On  /  Always Alright  /  Makin’ Me Itch (new song)  /  Worryin’ Blues  /  I Found You  /  Heartbreaker  /  Boys & Girls  /  Be Mine  /  I Ain’t the Same  / ?? (new song)  /  You Ain’t Alone  ENCORE: On Your Way  /  Heat Lightning  /  Heavy Chevy

[Photo: Jonathan Short/Invision/AP]