Chaos filled the streets of Kenmore on Friday night as crazed New Englanders herded into a packed Fenway Park to see the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry play out in the postseason. But the game across the street was not the only pull to the Fenway area for wild Bostonians of all ages—soulful southern rock group St. Paul and the Broken Bones drew a full crowd to the House of Blues on Oct. 5.
The night kicked off with female powerhouse vocalist Mattiel whose similarities to the main act lie not only in their southern roots but in their retro rock musicality and the robust vocal range of their frontmen. Belting out tracks including “Count Your Blessings,” “Baby Brother,” and “Whites of Her Eyes” from her 2017 self-titled debut album, Mattiel dutifully set the scene for the equally brazen and emotionally charged performance that was to follow.
Forty minutes passed as grips set up the elaborate stage for the eight-piece ensemble, multi-colored lights flickering occasionally with the Otis Redding and remastered Frank Sinatra songs that bridged the two acts. Anticipation building, the lights dimmed to total darkness and reemerged seconds later, revealing electric green stars speckled across the backdrop of the stage. This signaled the first notes of the guitar that twinkled in. Lead guitarist Browan Lollar casually waltzed on stage, followed by the rest of the instrumental artists all sporting classic black suit jackets.
In contrast to the basic attire of the instrumental artists, lead singer Paul Janeway stood out on the stage, donning a multi-colored sequin cloak and silver sequined lighting bolt shirt. His outlandish outfit established the theatrical nature of his dynamic, high energy performance while he belted out the opening lyrics to “LivWithOutU.” Flowing seamlessly from song to song, never missing a beat or dampening the energy of each powerful 60’s rock and soul fusion filled tune, the group continued their set with favorites “Flow With It (You Got Me Feeling Like),” “All I Ever Wonder,” and “Like a Mighty River” from its 2016 and 2014 albums Sea of Noise and Half the City.
“Now that’s what I’m talking about,” Janeway remarked with a thick Alabama drawl and a wide grin. The crowd erupted with shouts in response, proving that wild Boston spirits are not limited to baseball fans across the street. Lights dimming, organist Al Gamble started off “Grass is Greener” with an intensity that matched Janeway’s fervent vocals.
The band showcased their experimental and eclectic sound next with “Mr. Invisible,” “Convex,” and “NASA” from their most recent 2018 album Young Sick Camilla, which feature more hints of hip-hop and electronic elements than prior albums.
“All right Boston, its time to shake your asses,” Janeway exclaimed, erupting into a raw rhythmic dancing fit.
The artist incited a similar hip-shaking movement throughout the crowd as the up-tempo “Got it Bad” and equally electrifying and dance-inducing “Apollo” rafted throughout the theater. It’s easy to see that prior to his tenure as ‘St.Paul,’ Janeway was a preacher in his native Birmingham, Alabama—his ability to connect and command an audience is unparalleled and unwavering throughout each powerful and emotionally charged song. The main set drew to a close with the deeply intense “Bruised Fruit,” ending in an extended battle of impressive solos from each instrumentalist.
The final notes still lingering in the air, the audience’s energy had yet to waiver and the band quickly rejoined the stage for the encore performance of favorites “Sanctify,” “Half the City,” and “Call Me.” Despite an enthusiastic and involved performance that was over an hour long, neither the crowd nor band seemed to be wearing out as Janeway introduced the remaining members of the band: Andrew Lee, Jesse Phillips, Allen Bransetter, Amari Ansari, and Chad Fisher.
Smirking slightly and guzzling down his fourth bottle of water, Janeway noted that for the last song, “Broken Bones and Pocket Change,” he would be coming to “see y’all.” Met with a riotous roar of approval from the audience, the impassioned performer weaved his way through the audience guided by a hand above his head for fans to connect with the artist, all while remarkably belting out the track with as much intensity and grace as if he were still on stage. Returning to the stage for the final notes, Janeway stood in the spotlight, arms raised above his head, as if basking in the adoration of the faithful audience, soaking in each lasting moment of the slower song’s melody like a preacher with a devout congregation.
Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / Heights Staff