Whatever nerves, they weren't noticeable when the band took the stage. They played their biggest hit, "Hold On," almost right off the bat to huge applause. And while Howard's powerful vocals are enough to command a room, the Shakes have truly evolved when it comes to their live presence. Whereas they used to be a bit more crowded together, the band situates itself to a more backing role like a traditional soul-style revue, letting Howard be the main attraction. For much of the set, she put down her turquoise Gibson and prowled the stage, displaying a tried-and-true embodiment of old-school showmanship, enrapturing a crowd that seemed only somewhat familiar with the group's catalog.
The Shakes' sophomore effort is in the final stages of completion -- it should be finished in August, they say -- and they're throwing in some surprising sounds that could seem a bit odd, but are grounded in their throwback Southern soul style. "I want to say like metal, I'm serious, and neo-soul. Scuzzy," Howard said of what the as-yet-untitled album will feature. Of the new songs they played, there was a noticeable garage-rock edge there led to clap-alongs by an unfamiliar, enthusiastic crowd.
Mercedes-Benz Evolution Tour: Alabama Shakes, Young The Giant, Mayer Hawthorne To Headline
Still, a real throwback feel came in the form of "Gimme All Your Love," a slower jam that builds to a massive crescendo and, according to the band, has led to some of the best audience responses at their recent shows. And proving that they know how to work a room, they followed that up with "You Ain't Alone," bright lights and a massive disco ball firing up Terminal 5. Soon after, a brief break led to a frenzied send-off that left everyone wanting more. Thankfully, it's only a few months until Alabama Shakes deliver on the promised they showed onstage last night.
The Mercedes-Benz Evoltuion Tour will roll through eight more U.S. cities through November and will also feature performances by Young the Giant and Mayer Hawthorne.