REVIEW: St. Paul and the Broken Bones at The Pabst Theater


I’m changing up my format for this review so let me know what you all think!

Sunday night, Alabama rock group St. Paul and the Broken Bones graced the Pabst Theater for a true spectacle of rock, glam, and some damn fine music. Coming off their latest album Young Sick Camilla the soul inspired southern rockers had something to prove to their crowd. That they are an absolute force!

The Band

St. Paul and the Broken Bones consists of eight members from a guitarist, bassist, drummer, keys, trumpet, sax, trombone and Paul Janeway on vocals. Forming in 2012 the band has made themselves a home in the music scene with the newly revived soul/rock trend that has been sweeping the music world. They are a culmination of everything you learned from the Blues Bros., James Brown and Aretha Franklin in the best way possible. Lead singer, Paul Janeway has easily some of the most powerful pipes you will hear in music today. He can scream high notes that would make the lead singer from The Darkness blush.

On this fateful night, Paul came strutting out in a gold sequins gospel robe and sparkly shoes. To be honest, their aesthetic is nothing that you would picture from the sound of their music but instead what your Dungeon and Dragons dungeon master might look like if he was really into Elton John. My slight dig aside, it all worked. In fact, it made this show even better. You wanted to see what the next antic would be. Would Paul gently caress the bassist’s face? Would he throw his cloak over his head and walk around like a mummy? Or would he jump down into the crowd and sing his final encore song to through the entirety of The Pabst Theater? They break the mold of what their sound is with their live show. These aren’t some hipster rock guys that think they are too cool for everyone. *Cough* Father John Misty *Cough* They instead came off as guys that really love making music together and knew how to have a good time.

The Experience

As this was my first time seeing this band I was blown away with how big this crowd was, ranging from people in their mid 20’s to people in their 70’s. The latter was there in a good abundance which I found very interesting. It was clear that people really love their music as they cheered every time one of the pre-show songs wrapped up in hopes that SPATBB might take the stage. A quarter past 9 PM they took to the stage to a roaring crowd. In a rare sight, the band actually introduced themselves, which added to their vibe that they aren’t afraid to take themselves to seriously. Coming right out the gate they lit the rather crowded stage up with a myriad of lights and we were off.

LivWithoutU kicked off the set and it couldn’t be a more perfect choice. The opening screech of guitar followed by the marching of horns set the show off in a big way. One of their newest hits opened a show that had an already rowdy crowd into a frenzy. I can’t speak enough of how much they blow you out of the water right out of the gate. They are bold and want it to be known.

Without dropping a beat SPATBB went into hit after hit with Flow With It, All I Ever Wonder and Like a Mighty River ecstatic crowd. Usually, I feel bands tend to save these types of jams to later in the show but they weren’t holding back. After the hits, the band addressed the crowd and thanked us for being there with them and told a story about their first time here in Milwaukee. Playing at Club Garibaldi the band reminisced about how their crowd had about 40 people compared to the packed house they were playing at today. Then they slowed things down a bit with Grass Is Always Greener and then an instrumental cover of Beck’s New Pollution.

The instrumental was a welcome break in the set for what felt like a whirlwind of amazing music only to have Paul come back and kick out the chair from under us playing some lesser known but absolutely incredible songs. One of the things that stood out to me was how this band sounds live versus in the studio. Which is when it dawned on me, the studio can’t handle their sound. St. Paul and the Broken Bones was meant to be heard live. The vocals of Paul can’t be contained to your headphones, they need a hall to really display their full capabilities. At the start of one of the songs, I thought a fangirl was screaming in my ear until I realized it was Paul warming us up.

SPATBB wrapped up their set with their most recent single Apollo and thankfully didn’t make the crowd wait much longer for an encore in which we sang happy birthday to the bassist and then went right into Sanctify which has a build up that can match some of the greatest ballads of all time. Finally, the show came to its final moments, but not before Paul jumped into the crowd and serenaded us all with Broken Bones & Pocket Change.

The Verdict

St. Paul and the Broken Bones has the stage presence of a band that has been cultivated their sound for years. You can hear the roots they draw from, the soul of the south, and the mentality of a rock star. I see plenty of shows, this is one that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. I was wowed at every moment. Paul’s vocals haunted my dreams that night. I thought about them this morning. And I sure as hell will continue to think about them as I continue to listen to them and see this incredible band again. On second thought, this wasn’t a band, they were a unit. Every person had their piece to play in cultivating their sound and it showed. 10/10 would love to see them again.

Special shoutout to their drummer who didn’t take a break the entire time and rocked the hell out of his set like he was playing for Iron Maiden. It was truly incredible.

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