Review: St. Paul and the Broken Bones stage an impassioned soul clinic at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg
Some people have a calling. Paul Janeway’s is to perform.
The stage is his playground and I couldn’t imagine the frontman of St. Paul and the Broken Bones doing anything else after his theatrical performance at Jannus Live on Friday night.
He first approached the stage shrouded in a gold cloak, arms out Evita-style, as he held a stoic, almost pastoral composure under a single beacon of light. He paused while engulfed in applause, and then slid into Crumbling Light Post Pt. 1 – his invitation to the stage, his arena, a siren song so to speak.
The band launched into Flow With It, and Janeway shed his cloak to reveal a dapper purple and teal suit jacket, dark green pants and sparkling gold dress shoes. The musical fire burned through him, from his fingertips to his feet. He was electric.
He vibed with St. Petersburg and it vibed right back.
“I went to a record store today,” Janeway said. “We really love this city. I don’t say that to everyone. ... Way to go.”
His captivating musical theatrics may have stolen the show, but his seven-piece backing band created the fire. From the talkative trombone and trumpet to the sultry saxophone and wistful organ, the whole crew was a package deal, and one couldn't happen without the other. Janeway repeatedly stepped back and yielded the spotlight to showcase their spirited solos and jams.
The Birmingham, Ala. band built their sound around Janeway’s distinctive voice. The end result is a mixture of gospel meets soul with a sprinkle of funk, which isn’t surprising since Janeway said he was only allowed to listen to gospel and a little bit of soul growing up.
Janeway’s stage antics, alongside a perfectly timed full live band, adds multi dimensions to their songs, and the ones they cover. Friday night’s covers included a rendition of Radiohead’s The National Anthem and Sam Cooke’s Shake. They also played more than half their sophomore release, Sea of Noise, including Midnight on Earth, Sanctify, I’ll Be Your Woman and Is It Me (self-described as their Sweet Home Alabama).
Through each song and extended jam, Janeway didn’t miss a beat. Not when he took off his gold shoe and threw it over his shoulder during Broken Bones and Pocket Change, nor when crawled on his hands and knees and disappeared for more than half the song underneath the raised drum kit to recover it. His voice: Unflappable, out of sight, through every note. He finally reemerged with disheveled hair, earpiece dangling and his monitor missing, but shoe in hand, explaining with a chuckle, “I lost some stuff.”
It seemed like he could go all night. Every soprano, wail and long note poured out pristinely. He was his own instrument, and anything on stage was a prop for his making: The band he continually roused; the gold microphone he twirled about; the rug under his feet; his shoe (used once again as a phone in Call Me); and hands that he licked before a serious vocal throwdown, or used to cradle orpush the royal air that surrounded him.
At end of a four-song encore, Janeway fell to his knees and crumbled onto the ground. He brought his still-bellowing face to the floor, singing to the earth, or to the graves of all the soul musicians that came before him. He yanked at the gold-flecked rug beneath his feet as he lifted himself back up. He pulled at it until it was off the ground and around his shoulders, cloaking himself in gold, just as he began. As he belted out the final note of Burning Rome, he untangled himself from the floppy rug and let it fall limp and broken to floor before dropping the golden microphone with it.
-- Stephanie Bolling