The Leeds Irish Centre is the unlikely venue for a night of emphatic Americana. St Paul & The Broken Bones are one of the most vaunted live acts of the moment. Their promise of Motown Soul with some late ’70s swing is hard to resist.
However they aren’t alone. Opening act The Americans are worth admission on their own. The voice of singer Patrick Ferris is both rafter rattlingly loud but smooth too. This smoothness gives their ballads (‘I’ll Be Yours’) a pleasing catharsis, whilst Ferris’s affected Southern twang gives the tunes some authenticity.
That said, the band are at their best when going for Springsteenesque AOR. Though there’s nothing to set the roof on fire, these more upbeat tunes are direct and riff-driven. ‘Nevada’ & ‘Stowaway’ are a bale of hay away from a hoedown.
St Paul is what you get when you compress the voices of Otis Redding and Sam Cooke into a little white guy with glasses. Yet make no mistake – this is his show. He arrives on stage in a glittering gold wrap, in stark contrast to his dapper Broken Bones. What we get is a real soul gig, the kind of thing you never see anymore. The horns are brassy and loud, the grooves are just that, and the choruses are killer.
Run-outs from the seminal Half of the City sound the best – ‘Like a Mighty River’ sounds absolutely huge. The more experimental sounds of new album don’t quite gel with the slightly dusty textures of prior albums. The glitchy ‘Mr Invisible’ feels like it belongs in a different setlist.
However when you have a song as glorious as ‘Call Me’, the penultimate song, it barely matters. The room is instantly galvanised. As the crowd empties into a chilly Wednesday night, it’s clear that the boys from Birmingham, Alabama are welcome back any time.