w/ St Paul & The Broken Bones
The Chelsea, Las Vegas
Saturday 26 August 2017
I felt a tad overdressed for the gig tonight. But I was in Las Vegas, and dress codes are strict here, so I opted for something slightly nicer than the fluro cheetah print spandex top I’d worn to Steel Panther the night previous.
First act St Paul & The Broken Bones were actually the drawcard for me. They were also dressed to the nines, so perhaps my nice shirt was a good choice. There were eight of them onstage – three in the brass section, bass, drums, guitar, organ and vocals – all well presented and experts on their instruments. Frontman Paul Janeway rocked a dapper red suit with checkered labels.
And they could play! I heard someone near me call them “this generation’s white James Brown”. I’ll leave that to you to decide on, but they sure could channel soul music as well as the best I’d seen.
Janeway was a real character. He was possessed by the music, letting it control him. He would “conduct” the rest of the band, adding his angelic coos to the music. At one point he removed his golden shoes and threw them over his shoulder. Next he rolled around on the floor as he sang, before crawling under the drum riser – emerging from the other end like a caterpillar crawling across a leaf. I was in stitches. Janeway managed to do all this without missing a note, so I imagine he is well-practiced at this caterpillar routine.
The band played a mixed style, with some down-tempo soul music interspersed with upbeat funky numbers. Either way, it was great for dancing. Whether they laid down a groovy jam, struck up a flute solo, or let loose on the organ, it was all brilliant.
The band played for 80 minutes, despite only having two albums of material to draw from. And truth be told, I could have quite happily left after that set satisfied.
I’m glad that I didn’t though. Because as great as Saint Paul & The Broken Bones were, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue were a step above.
That band – what a band!- they were a sight to see. To start with there were two drummers.
I don’t know if that excites everyone the way that it excites me, but two drummers in one band is something that I get very worked up about. They last time that I saw a band that featured two drummers was Tortoise, and they were outstanding. There was a dedicated percussionist as well – who may as well be a third drummer.
SO MANY DRUMS!!!!!!!
And moving on….
The excitement doesn’t stop there. There was bass – smooth, groovy bass. There were two guitarists – ridiculously talented shredders. Three talented backing singers (sat criminally low in the mix). And a trio of brass players, with two on saxophone and the star of the show adding his trademark trombone (and occasionally trumpet) to the trio.
I think back to when I first saw Gary Clark Jr play, opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2013. His very presence exuded coolness. And his playing only confirmed how slick he was. Seeing Troy Andrews – better known as Trombone Shorty – evoked exactly the same thoughts and feelings in me.
The man has talent. Whether he was singing or riffing along with the saxophones on the trombone, he impressed. I guess if you grow up around the hottest players in New Orleans, some of that talent is guaranteed to rub off on you.
It was all on. 12 people on stage will do that. Everyone was dancing about and enjoying themselves – both on and off the stage. It was so infectious. The lights added to the fun, although there was a touch too much strobing that made me dizzy. And I swear that the floor was flexing underneath me!
Trombone Shorty cut his teeth with the best, learning from an early age. And using all that knowledge and experience, he has fused the genres of his town to create fantastic, fun music, and assembled a stellar band to help him present it to the world.
As if it wasn’t enough to play such a great set, they finished the night by throwing a dozen free t-shirts into the audience. It was a generous notion, considering that those shirts cost almost the price of admission at the merch table.
I came to The Chelsea tonight hoping to see some class acts representing their respective cities musically, and wanting to dance. And sure enough, got both in spades. Now I can tick Saint Paul & The Broken Bones off my bucket list after their soulful set. And Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue blew me away. What better way to get a taste of the south?