Published Aug 10, 2015Walking out to the dramatic sound of "Walk On By" by Isaac Hayes, Alabama Shakes captured the crowd's attention from the get-go, a fact made evident by the size of the crowd that swelled around one of Squamish's biggest stages throughout their set. Framed by a rhythm section, guitar, keyboardist and occasionally a trio of backup singers, Brittany Howard was an indomitable force. She has personally noted the likes of Bon Scott (AC/DC) and Nina Simone as influences, but it's clear that she ranks almost as a peer among them.
Howard oozed heartfelt charisma and showmanship on vocals and guitar, like some kind of magical mash-up of Jimi Hendrix's swagger and Janis Joplin's earnestness. Her vocals could be soul-wrenchingly deep and sweetly uplifting from one moment to the next, and she captured the range of emotion in her elastic facial expressions.
Leaning heavily on their number one album from 2015, Sound & Color, their rendition of "Dunes" was so righteous that it blew Howard's thick horn-rimmed glasses right off her face. She looked like she was going out of her goddamn mind during "Miss You," and, seemingly driven by the sheer power of her conviction, had to take her earpiece out during "You Ain't Alone."
Howard didn't banter much, but near the end of their set, she happily noted that, unlike so many bands that attempt to cross it, they had no trouble getting across the border. She went on to express their thanks for the crowd and deep love for Canada in an unrehearsed fashion. Obviously, they are welcome back anytime.