Y’all ever watch that show Diary on MTV back in the day? You remember, the one where they’d follow around a celebrity for a few glamorous days, and the diarist would start each episode by saying, “You think you know… but you have no idea.” Now that’s a catch phrase! It still runs through my head every once in a while. Probably because I was always tickled by how this intimidating phrase sounded in the mouths of less-intimidating subjects. Listen to the beginning of Jennifer Love Hewitt’s episode. That shit cracks me up.
Now watch this interview and tell me Alabama Shakes frontwoman Brittany Howard wouldn’t have knocked that line out of the park. I’m almost tempted to start a letter writing campaign to get MTV to revive the series… but thankfully I don’t have to. I heard Howard deliver the Diary catch phrase just a few days ago. Well, not those words exactly, but Friday’s Alabama Shakes show on Brown’s Island in Richmond made one thing abundantly clear: I thought I knew Alabama Shakes, but I had no idea.
I went into Friday’s show already having seen the Athens, AL group perform once, about six months back at the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville. Add to that experience my faithful attention to Alabama Shakes articles, blog posts and Twitter feeds, and what do you get? One overconfident concertgoer. I went in thinking I’d know every song, which guitars they’d be playing, everything. I was mistaken. Between the beautiful blue SG Howard played for most of the show, Heath Fogg rocking a telecaster instead of the hollow-bodied instruments I was used to seeing, the unexpected side-stage drum setup, and getting to hear new tunes like “Makin’ Me Itch” and the above-pictured ”Worryin’ Blues,” I was treated to a completely different experience than the one I enjoyed in January.
The whole thing was a humbling reminder that loyalty to bands is kinetic, not static. Being surprised is half the fun of going to see live music, just as writing new songs and going in new directions is essential to the livelihood of a band, no matter how revered or documented its previous work may be. Or, as the old saying among sharks goes, “You’ll die if you stop swimming, so keep writing and developing new rock songs while you’re on tour, and never forget to OOH — that oxygen tank looks delicious! I’ll just have a quick nibble and… hey… why’s that asshole pointing a rifle at me? Oh shit.”
Check out new tune “Worryin’ Blues” above and listen below to a few of the more familiar songs that Alabama Shakes played on Friday, and click here to buy their album, Boys & Girls, on iTunes.