Through a V shaped crack, between two very tall people, in a heaving venue in the depths of Brixton, I saw Alabama Shakes play live for the first time. The crowd outside had been lining up for quite a while for this sold out gig. It was obvious that many people had come early to see the opening act Palma Violets, and the buzz about them was good, very good. When I say the venue was heaving, it was more like a wave of people swelling back and forth towards the stage, and filling every inch of the large room. You had to fight for breathing space, and it was obvious they were over capacity. Did anyone care? Did they fuck! While finding myself in a corner, leaning on a pole for safe measure, and standing on tip toe just to catch a glimpse of the lead singer Brittany, Alabama Shakes came on stage to a surprisingly muted response from the crowd. Why? I thought.

Looking around it was easy to see that the crowd that night were as mixed as you could get. Hardcore fans did make up the majority. Screams of "We love you Brittney!" came through the crowd between songs, American accents readily heard. And then they were the others, dressed up to the nines as if they were going out to a 5 star restaurant. And the girls who did nothing but talk about their social lives and take photos throughout the whole performance. Yes, they were that loud that I could hear them, at one point one of the ladies, about to take her 50th photo, obscuring everyone's view, got her arm knocked down by a guy behind me. People smiled.

Starting the set with the unusual choice of 'Goin' To The Party' Shakes kicked off. There was little chat, and they all looked slightly worn out. They had been in Paris the day previously; did they even know what time zone they were in? I'm not sure if it was the energy from the crowd, or just a slow build, but it wasn't until the familiar 'Hold On' started that you felt a palpable shift in the crowd. Perhaps some of them hadn't heard the whole album...perhaps. Despite the slow start Brittany's voice was a powerful as ever, and the band were tight and on point. Not a note faltered. To be honest, I heard Alabama Shakes, rather than saw them. When I did get a view, my eyes fell automatically to the drummer Steve, and the bassist Zac. Both keeping the rhythm with such ease you wondered if they were born with their instruments. 'Hang Loose' was a crowd pleaser, as was 'You Ain't Alone' but there was something not quite right that night. I'm not sure if it was the venue, the crowd, or the band. While there is no doubt of the talent of this band, and their potential, something seemed lacking that night, but I really can't put my finger on it. I am going to be interested to see them in front of a festival crowd this summer. We will see how they fair then.