I have been baptized by St. Paul.
Literally. Baptized. Paul Janeway was on fire (figuratively); pouring water on his white wing-tips to put out the flames (again, figurative). And lo! I was misted with water from the shoes of a most energetic singer-cum-cleric. And I loved it.
Again and again, members of the crowd asked, “Have you seen them before? NO?! Well, you have watched their YouTubes?!”
It’s fitting that St. Paul and the Broken Bones has its roots the church—frontman Janeway grew up on Christian gospel and preaching in church—because the audience is their disciple. People around me travelled up the Atlantic seaboard, catching the show in Charleston, Charlotte, and completing the trinity at the 9:30 Club.
It has been written before (over and over, in fact) that the beautiful, monstrous noise that comes out of Janeway’s mouth is incongruous with his image—he resembles the plastic honey bear that he carries on stage with him more than he does a star of an up-an-coming band.
And boy, it is even truer live.
There are a few times when I have been literally stunned by the power of a singers’ voice—see Rachael Price of Lake Street Dive—and this is one of them. The entire band is an extremely talented cult of personality. Yes, Janeway’s spirited dance moves steal the show, but keep an eye on the drummer, Andrew Lee, who may be the happiest person alive; or the horns Allan Branstetter (trumpet) and Ben Griner (trombone) who are just as engaging though hidden upstage. And let me tell you, watching someone try to clap along with the audience while also playing the trombone…an experience. Of course, not to discount the talents of Jesse Phillips, bass, Browan Lollar, guitar, and Al Gamble, keys.
Playing through their whole album—their first, Half the City—the St. Paul and the Broken Bones added in an opening jam session highlighting the strength of the band, a fabulous cover of Shake! by Sam Cooke, and a glorious rendition of Moonage Daydream by David Bowie.
Anyone who follows St. Paul and the Broken Bones will know that Janeway and crew are a little quirky—I suppose you have to be when you are a brassy soul band in a pop-y, rap-y world—see @allsongs Tiny Desk Concert …
…in which Janeway climbed on top of Bob Boilen’s desk or on @blogotheque wherein the band charmingly giggle at the puzzled Frenchmen assembled to watch the band play in a Parisian courtyard:
I cannot put my finger on the best part of St. Paul and the Broken Bones, but their sound and their fun is infectious and, may I just say, they are dapper as fuck.