Gig review: Alabama Shakes, T in the Park

IF EVER there was an unlikely venue for Alabama Shakes’ brand of blues-soaked Southern Rock, then the King Tut’s Wah Wah tent would surely be it.

Alabama Shakes

King Tut’s Wah Wah tent

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Given the sea of mud and water that was sloshing around the venue floor, the band’s singer Brittany Howard could have been forgiven for thinking that they were performing out from the banks of the Mississippi Delta.

But welcomed on with the customary T in the Park cheer – one part Braveheart battle charge to two parts Hampden Roar – any concerns that they were facing the proverbial damp squib were soon dissipated.

Alabama Shakes’ rise to prominence has been the subject of considerable column inches: formed at high school in 2009, in the space of three years they have found themselves signed to Rough Trade record label, releasing the hit album Boys And Girls, and performing on national television on both sides of the Atlantic.

They’re sound is easy to pigeonhole: a combination of 70s roots rock, Booker T and the MG’s Stax soul with a garage band heart beating at its core.

Howard is an unusual frontwoman: dressed in a flowery frock that is, as far as the weather is concerned, off-trend, she looks more university librarian than soul screamer.

But when she straps on her red Les Paul SG and lets rip for Hold On or You Ain’t Alone, she’s channelling Janis Joplin and Jack White, and the band are her spirit guides.

It’s an avowedly retro sound, though not unimaginative, and one that stretches out and connects the audience, even if the band’s own charisma perhaps falls short– their demeanour is closer to that of a bar band.