By definition, a true soul band knows how to stay in the groove. They can blast and wail, rock as hard or as softly as needed, but they never take over the spotlight. They are there to support their singer, and if that singer is good enough, to let her or him raise the whole group higher. The Broken Bones are a near-perfect soul band and completely up to the task of supporting their star.
I'd like to call him a secret weapon but St. Paul, but there is nothing unassuming about him when he's on stage. He's a born star and a straight, cold killer. With a rose pinned to his jacket and the most spectacular gold shoes this side of Elton John, St. Paul is a born star. The crowd hung on his every word all night, which is good for them, because his stage banter is top-notch. That's just icing on the cake though because I'm fairly certain no one came to see him talk; we were all there to hear him sing and by god, the man can sing. Even those who'd watched the group's live YouTube videos couldn't have been prepared for the damage that came out of that man's throat and guts. Judging from the repeated gasps I heard around me throughout the set, I don't think anyone else was adequately prepared either.
Their debut record, Half the City is full of gems but each one was better and more powerful live than their shiny studio counterparts. Seeing Paul sing "Broken Bones & Pocket Change" is a sublimely emotional experience. "Call Me," the song that got the biggest response of the night, had incredible bottom-end that cranked the sexy knob to 11. With just one record and a few years of existence under their belts, Paul commented that there would have be a few covers to fill in the gaps of their longer-than-usual set — pretty standard stuff for a soul band, really. And what choice covers they were.
They pulled out some Sam Cooke and Wilson Pickett, but when Paul called out that the group was fixing to lay Radiohead's "Fake Plastic Trees" on us, people lost their minds. Complete with a little interpolation of the Beatles' "Don't Let Me Down," the track was a complete monster. Radiohead haven't been so accessible or immediate in years. Bowie's "Moonage Daydream" made an appearance as well, completing some weird Bermuda Triangle of Brit-rock turned blue-eyed Southern soul.
Soul music goes right for the, well, soul. When done right it changes your core temperature, makes you feel things you maybe forgot you could feel. Everyone needs good soul music, and thankfully St. Paul and the Broken Bones gave it generously to tonight's Vancouver crowd.