What: Concert by the music legend, with rising band from Athens. When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Where: Tuscaloosa Amphitheater. Cost: $43.75, $73.75 and $134.25, at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater box office, online atwww.ticketmaster.com, all Ticketmaster outlets, or by phone at 800-745-3000. More:www.tuscaloosaamphitheater.com.
The road just keeps rising for Athens-born buzz band the Alabama Shakes. While you could have seen them just a year or so back up close and personal at Egan's or on the Brews Cruise, earlier this year they'd moved up to selling out the Bama Theatre. Thursday they'll open the 7,500-seat Tuscaloosa Amphitheater for the legendary Neil Young with Crazy Horse.
And of course there's the “Conan” and “The Late Show with David Letterman” gigs, the upcoming shows in Tokyo, Brazil and Chile, recent appearances in France and Amsterdam and so forth. They're doing well.
The roots-rockers in the Alabama Shakes, led by Brittany Howard, with her soulful belter's voice and driving, passionate onstage performances, caught fire quickly after opening gigs for the Drive-By Truckers, helped along by Internet buzz, a South by Southwest performance and some early TV performances. They've sold out a weekend in London, played all around the U.S., along the way picking up fans including Adele, Robert Plant, Jack White and David Byrne, along with virtually everyone who's seen or heard them. The band just has that thing: cohesive songs played with real grit, power and love.
And it's all about a band with just one album out, “Boys and Girls,” which hit April 10. It wasn't too many years ago that Howard first approached bass player Zac Cockrell in their high-school psychology class, drawn by his shirts depicting obscure bands. They joined with drummer Steve Johnson, who worked at Athens' only music store, and guitarist Heath Fogg, from the first band Howard ever saw play live, to work on the songs Howard and Cockrell were writing.
Things heated up relatively fast, but Howard only quit her postal-service job in Athens last year.
“It's very unreal sometimes, being up on stage now, people saying, ‘We love you,' ” Howard said in an earlier interview with Tusk. “They pass you notes saying this song means this to me .... It's unreal, but it's great.
“I'm seeing all these things I thought I'd never see, like Paris, Brussels,” she said, laughing. “My parents are proud, so that makes me happy.”
Although their spring performance, a benefit also featuring the Dexateens and Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires, drew a sold-out audience to the Bama, Thursday's show will be their largest local audience.
“I love places like Egan's, like Green Bar,” Howard said. “I love Tuscaloosa. It's one of the first places that ever treated us right. People came out to shows and gave us support.”
And Howard believes the band will never get too big for the Druid City.
“We will play Egan's again. We will,” she said. “We've traveled through Europe, halfway around the world. People ask me my favorite place to play, and they always expect me to say a theater, and I always say Egan's. It's a hallway, you have to walk through the band to get to the bathrooms, there's grit and beer on the floor and it's my favorite place. It's rock ‘n' roll.”