St. Paul and the Broken Bones is not a band from St. Paul. “Do you hear my accent? I’m not from around here!” cried Paul Janeway midway through the band’s lid-blowing set at The Palace last Saturday. STP and the Bones hail from Birmingham, Alabama, but the past few years of touring have brought the band’s unique brand of neo-soul all over the country. With only three LP’s under their belt, Paul Janeway’s 8-piece soul outfit are steadily reaching ubiquity.
Saturday’s show marks only my second visit to The Palace Theatre, but the venue is quickly becoming a personal favorite and a much-needed alternative to the Roy Wilkins Center for a mid-capacity downtown St. Paul venue.
This band, like all the soul greats, comes dressed to impress. Horns are out first – trombone, trumpet, tenor sax – and the players are all wearing suits more expensive than my car (to be fair I don’t own a car so that means anywhere from not-much to nothing, but damn, those boys look good.) The rhythm section files out, peacocking equally, and finally our Patron Saint of Soul, in a sparkling sequined cape, steps onto the stage. This group is a sight for my proverbially sore eyes and they waste no time.
It’s not a minute into the first song before I’m remarking to anyone who’ll hear me just how ridiculous Janeway’s falsetto is. There’s not a better word. The man is ridiculous. He’s wearing a cape with a star-like, blinding luminosity and grabbing onto notes like those tiny little purple triangles that live way, way up at the top of an indoor rock climbing wall, the sort you can only fit a pinky around, and he’s hoisting himself up, higher and higher. Have you ever seen a southern man rock climb in stage-wear? All this poetic wax is immediately melted by sonic heat and I’ve got to just listen and commit wholeheartedly to being awe-struck.
Song three (or maybe four) is “All I Ever Wonder,” the lead single from the second album, Sea of Noise. This may be my favorite STP & the BroBo track and apparently it’s everyone else’s too because the Palace is practically pulsing. There is something to be said about sold out shows, as irritating as they may occasionally be: if you can get into the thick of it for the correct moment, if you can feel the same thing as 1,000 strangers at the same time and together watch the stage’s disparate performers have the simultaneous realization that they are, in fact, killing it right now… it’s like nothing else in life, except maybe a train derailment or a plane crash or a Sunday morning at a mega-church. And why risk your life or give your money to a conman when you could just fucking sing the words to your favorite song in a big dark room and dance?
The band plays. I keep mentally composing lengthy paragraphs like the above and then telling myself to just shut up and dance. That really is the best advice to give, usually. Joyous is an understatement for how this band can make one feel. There’s an encore in which Saint Paul announces to the audience the existence of the band’s most recently acquired trophy: “We got a star on First Avenue! Tonight might be our last show because that’s all I’ve ever wanted to accomplish.” He jests, assuredly, but we eat it up and scream. They leave us, we call cabs and share favorite moments. “Did you see it when he put the mic cord in his mouth?” “What now about rock climbing?” “Man, I missed that in the beer line.”
St. Paul and the Broken Bones is a band from Alabama, but last weekend they were ours. Here are some photos to prove it.