170 Russell St / Bird’s Basement Melbourne
At this time of year we get a stream of sideshows in Melbourne from bands booked for the Byron Blues festival. I prefer to cherry pick and get longer sets than sweat in a tent (TMFTL) at Byron. These last 2 weeks I’ve seen Laura Mvula, Electric Miles and now St Paul and the Broken Bones on Thursday followed by St Paul and the Minneapolis Funk All Stars on Sunday (not a Byron gig).
St Paul and the Broken Bones come from Alabama and are fronted by Paul Janeway. Deprived of music for most of his life due to a strict religious family he’s got JB, Sam Cooke, Otis and southern Baptist fervour infused into his remarkable voice. Their set of white southern soul / funk kicked off at 7 pm , squeezed in before they flew home. St Paul comes out in a cape and opens with Crumbling Light off 2016’s Sea Of Noise. The band are pretty good without being great, drums guitars, keys and a line of brass – but it is all about St Paul. But the thing is, he is such an unlikely figure – think George Castanza from Seinfeld. Short, a bit chubby, glasses, balding, possibly a combover, all the time rolling his ample butt but not really doing it right- when it comes to the moves he ain’t JB. Still it all comes down to the voice and that he has big time. Part way through they broke into a rather tidy version of “I’ve Been Workin’” and it dawned on me…a proper song! I just dont think their own songs are that great. Played well ,sung superbly – but not that catchy. The place was packed and appreciative, the sound was a bit dodgey and the band seemed well pleased with their reception. I’d go again provided it didn’t cost too much. Dunno what they are going to do to comeup with better songs but I reckon their funk could be toughened up with some changes to their line-up.
Never mind about the songs ,it was all about the groove at Bird’s Basement on Sunday night. This small club books international acts for a week and they do 2 shows a night. St Paul was here last year as fDeluxe- a bigger band with brass included. This was a more stripped down affair and we went for the late show on their last night in town. About 20 people in attendance with most having seen them last time in town or earlier in the week. “So it’s going to be a family thing”St Paul Peterson comments, “let’s just stretch things out tonight”. Fine by me. This is one shit hot band. His brother Ricky is superb on organ, Joey Finger on drums, Mike Scott on guitar and main man St Paul Peterson on bass and vocals. Part of the schtick is to tell stories about Prince, working with him, playing with him , producing for him/ by him either in his band,working at Paisely Park or playing with the Family, The Time , Sheila E etc. Don’t think the needed to bother. They opened with stuff off St Paul’s album Blue Cadillac from late nineties launched into some superb Minneapolis funk. This was pure bred stuff. -it was what is said on the tin – Minneapolis Funk All Stars. Couple of surprises Black Magic Woman -Peter Green style and a scorching version of Oh Well. A medley of the Purple One’s:Cream/ U Got The Look/ Partyman/ Delirious/ Kiss/ Sexy MF and an encore of Purple Rain. Mike Scott had toured a lot with Prince, I’ve seen Prince quite a few times and this was up with his solos. Great night, great band. Come back, I’ll be there.
It made me think..