Story and Photos:
St. Paul and the Broken Bones’ Mighty Sound Commands the Pageant
Described as an eight-piece Southern soul band, St. Paul and the Broken Bones were so much more than that at a sold-out Pageant on March 22nd. Fiery falsetto front man, Paul Janeway, backed by a full band that included rockin’ guitarist, Browan Lollar, electrified the crowd throughout the night.
The Birmingham, Ala.-based octet have toured nonstop over the past five years (last appearing in St. Louis in 2017 and making multiple appearances at Columbia’s Roots N Blues N BBQ festival), and that relentlessness has helped catapult them even further into the spotlight. Touring highlights would surely include opening for The Rolling Stones and appearing at the 2016 Glastonbury Festival.
But the band doesn’t need help when it comes to turning heads, especially with former preacher-in-training Janeway at the helm: He emerged onstage at the Pageant draped in a shimmering black-sequined cloak and black bedazzled Nike turf shoes. From the beginning of the set, Janeway sent the crowd into a screaming frenzy as he unleashed high-C notes on “LivWithoutU” off the newest release, Young Sick Camellia. While his vocals can command a crowd, the sound would not work without the Broken Bones, who can channel a yesteryear vibe with organ and horns, and elements of rock, groove, R&B and gospel.
The band kept the crowd moving with the funk-inspired, Barry White-esque “Flow With You (You Got Me Feeling Like),” and the sing-along-horn-laden-poppy “All I Ever Wonder” had everyone yelling, I can’t tell what side I am on / I can’t tell what’s right or wrong / We can’t ever just sing one song in unison as Janeway stepped away from the mike and smiled in approval of the crowd participation.
Janeway kept the banter to a minimum but summoned a large cheer from the crowd when he mentioned that the band got into town early enough to eat at Blues City Deli in Benton Park.
Going back five years to Half the City, the band broke out a vintage St. Paul & the Broken Bones hit “Like a Mighty River,” capping off an unyielding four-song stretch that segued nicely into the swaying ballad, “Grass is Greener.”
After moving at such a staggering tempo, Janeway exited the stage and left the band to perform an instrumental cover of Beck’s “New Pollution,” which was appreciated by the crowd—and the Broken Bones are probably one of the few bands musically qualified to pull that song off.
Returning to the stage, Janeway and the Broken Bones gave us offerings off of Young Sick Camellia with “Mr. Invisible,” “Convex,” “NASA,” “GotItBad,” “Apollo” and ended the set with “Bruised Fruit.” All were met with excitement and approval as the band has grown from past albums—dabbling with drum and bass to touching on a stealthy psychedelic mosaic to a disco motif.
The encore was left for hits such as “Sanctify,” “Call Me” and “Broken Bones & Pocket Change,” which ended the Young Sick Camellia segment of the tour.
When the Broken Bones first played St. Louis, they played at the relatively small venue Off Broadway, and six years later they’re selling out the Pageant and performing at Lollapalooza and Montreal’s Osheaga Festival.
Soul is in good hands with St. Paul and the Broken Bones.