St. Paul & the Broken Bones Take Phoenix to Church


St. Paul & the Broken Bones bring new life to modern soul. Photo by David McClister for Garden and Gun.

St. Paul & the Broken Bones Take Phoenix to Church

by William Weinstein


The Crescent Ballroom is easy to locate by the crowd of people located outside. The group is milling around, chatting loudly and drinking. The bouncers are having a good time, the people are polite, and everybody is excited to see what is in store for the evening. Most of them are in their thirties and showed up early to mingle with the other people here. There is a palpable sense in the air of relief at having found others who know about this band and still love soul music. It is the first night of the tour for St. Paul & the Broken Bones, and nobody knows what is about to happen.

St. Paul & the Broken Bones have been cruising around on the alternative and soul circuit for a few years. Their sound is straight out of a classic Stax Records soul track; the lead singer, Paul Janeway, is a good Southern boy from Montgomery, Alabama, with a voice like a freight train. The Broken Bones themselves are some of the highest caliber musicians in soul music right now, and they play as a cohesive unit every time. On their latest record, Sea of Noise, the band turns from their first album’s old-fashioned feel to incorporate modern political themes into the same good shit we have been getting. Their music videos ought to have given some hint as to what was coming in their live show.

The openers deserve praise as well. The Seratones are a four-piece alternative outfit from Shreveport, Louisiana, that claim on their Bandcamp to be “highly skilled in the art of rocking your socks off, bringing the house down, and blowing your mind.” They live up to their claim on their debut album, Get Gone, which they released this year. Songs such as “Choking on Your Spit” and “Tide” live up to the hype, bringing out a hard-rocking sound that wouldn’t sound out of place among bands such as Alabama Shakes or the Black Keys. As performers, they were engaging and fun, something that often gets missed out on by more mainstream acts. They brought their club-circuit antics with them, and it paid off well: the crowd was remarkably to them, and when frontwoman AJ hopped off the stage to dance in the crowd on their last number, everybody lost their minds.

The Seratones did a wonderful job setting the tone for the evening. As church-inspired music played, the seven suited-up members of the Broken Bones came on stage and took up their various instruments. Finally, Paul himself walked on, shrouded in a priest’s robe, which he threw off after his tender opening number to reveal a gold cheetah-print suit. The band proceeded to channel the spirits of James Brown, Otis Redding, and Marvin Gaye for the next hour and a half. It was an extremely crowded and loud affair, with everyone swaying and grooving as the band took it away. During “Broken Bones and Pocket Change,” when Janeway crawled around on the stage and wailed, the audience began cheering ecstatically and could not be calmed down for a good minute. The band was as overjoyed by the enthusiasm that Phoenix showed for them as we were to have them. The atmosphere was dramatic, active, and fun. The band played off of each other with ease, and interacted with the audience freely, shouting back to people making loving comments. There is no question that if the rest of the tour is as moving and powerful as the performance last night was, then St. Paul & the Broken Bones are about to receive a whole lot of love from the world.


Reach the writer: @WilliamWeisnt1