Show review: St. Paul and the Broken Bones

Photo by John A. Zara

St. Paul and the Broken Bones are accustomed to extreme weather when they perform in Western North Carolina.

A memorably chilly show at The Grey Eagle in 2014 forced vocalist Paul Janeway to steadily drink hot tea to protect his voice; pouring rain turned the band’s May 2017 Highland Brewing Co. appearance into a muddy romp for concertgoers; and the Sept. 2018 gig at Pisgah Brewing Co. stayed dry well into the night until Janeway made note of the pleasant conditions and precipitation started minutes later.

The Grey Eagle’s Nov. 19 drive-in show at the Maggie Valley Festival Grounds — an event appropriately postponed in late October due to torrential storms — was no different and set a record for the Birmingham, Ala.-based soul rockers.

“This is the coldest show we’ve ever played,” Janeway comically revealed to the not-quite-capacity crowd. But beyond a weather-related, out-of-tune saxophone note late in the set that made the frontman cackle with laughter at the unusual circumstances, neither he nor his seven-piece backing band let the near-freezing temperatures affect them.

Along with the allure of Janeway’s shiny silver cape, which may or may not have doubled as a thermal emergency blanket, St. Paul and the Broken Bones’ upbeat selections — namely “LivWithOutU” and highlight “Got It Bad,” both from 2018’s Young Sick Camellia — kept the boogie-friendly band and audience thawed. Meanwhile, slow jams “Grass Is Greener” and “Sanctify” warmed the souls of all involved who’ve missed the frequency of live music and are willing to bundle up in an atypical setting to rekindle that specific fire.

Following the generous, yet all-too-quick 80-minute set, additional history was made with the band’s first honk-induced encore — “2020, baby!” Janeway exclaimed — which they used to spotlight songs from their 2014 debut LP, Half the City. Closing out the evening, Janeway went into full clown mode on the band’s namesake “Broken Bones and Pocket Change,” rolling himself in a carpet like a human burrito while singing as if nothing out of the ordinary were happening, earning laughter and cheers from the faithful crowd.

The embrace of the absurd from both sides of the stage felt like an appropriate end to the concert series’ 2020 run and sent attendees off into Thanksgiving week with full, satisfied hearts.


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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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