Alabama Shakes finish tour of Southern soul in wintry London

Fri Nov 20, 2015 4:08pm EST
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By Anjuli Davies and Jemima Kelly

LONDON (Reuters) - "Hang loose! Hang loose!", exhorts Brittany Howard as she warms up a tense crowd at Alabama Shakes' sold-out two-night set at London's Brixton Academy on Thursday, where extra security staff were on hand following terrorist attacks in Paris.

Lead singer Brittany, bespectacled in a black dress, bellowing with her blue electric guitar, begins the show channeling her inner rock chick, almost screaming into the mic.

Though the band is a four-piece, it can feel like a solo performance by its charismatic front-woman as she stomps about the stage, sometimes sultry, sometimes defiant, but always a strong stage presence.

Twenty-seven-year-old Howard, whose raspy tones and tales of heartbreak give her the air of an older woman, sings a lot about home on the last leg of a 93-city tour following the launch in April of the group's second album, "Sound and Color", which topped the U.S. Billboard charts.

The former truck driver and postal service worker from Athens, Alabama, has a tattoo of the state with a heart on her arm.

"Where's my home/where I belong?" she demands in "Rise to the Sun", from the band's debut 2012 album "Boys and Girls".

From blues to rock to rodeo, Howard's long list of influences - Prince, Jim Hendrix, Elvis Presley - ring out.

She takes a bow after "Hold On" in the middle of the set, the band's breakthrough number one single, named 2013's song of the year by Rolling Stone magazine and nominated for three Gram awards.   Continued...

Brittany Howard of the band "Alabama Shakes" plays at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California April 10, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson - RTR4WWC8