Southern soul band St. Paul and the Broken Bones shattered expectations and brought jazz back to Austin this weekend at Stubb’s.
Story by Gabrielle Sanchez
Paul Janeway stepped up to the microphone looking as humble as can be in robes that resembled those of a preacher. He raised his hands as though he was preaching the gospel, and filled the entire space with his voice. After a moment, he yanked off the robe, exposed a bright red suit and that’s when the show really began.
Watching St. Paul and the Broken Bones was a mesmerizing experience from start to finish. The powerful, soul-infused voice that poured from Janeway gave listeners chills. Emotions throughout the performance were high, and led to Janeway shrouding himself with an onstage rug and dragging it around as he belted the song, “Sanctify.”
Janeway gravitated around the stage, electrifying the audience with his hand gestures. Everything felt natural, and not like he was trying to fill the space in a contrived way. It was as though the stage was his childhood home.
Janeway’s experience as a preacher in Alabama came through his performance. His ability to understand and direct a crowd could have any audience member on the verge of tears during one song and dancing their heart out in the next.
Knowing every lyric to every song is not a requirement at a musical experience like this one. It wouldn't help you much anyway, as Janeway improvises the vocals and arrangements in his songs. This concert experience relied on the emotion of it all: the excitement, heartache and joy. All of the elements of soul, jazz and rock music meld into a vibrant performance with surprises around every turn.
The brass section of the band consisted of talented individuals who showcased their variety throughout the show, switching from fast, upbeat and complicated rhythmic melodies to choral arrangements that lifted the audience higher. They weren’t simply performing backup to Janeway, but were integral and felt just as important as Janeway himself. At one point, Janeway stepped away from the stage as the band played a jam session, in classic jazz improv style.
This show exemplified music outside of the rock and alternative genres that often gets swept under the rug in Austin. It’s been a long time since I’d seen a performance as immersive and well thought-out as this one, and I encourage everyone to step outside of their boundaries and submerge themselves in a musical experience like the one St. Paul and the Broken Bones created.