St. Paul And The Broken Bones Flow With It At Indigo At The O2

There’s a touch of the unexpected about St. Paul And The Broken Bones. The Alabama-based soul eight piece, who seemingly formed by accident twelve years ago come onstage to heavy metal riffs mixed with raindrops, for instance. In the middle of their perpetual touring cycle, they’ve somehow managed to squeeze a single UK date into their schedule, sandwiched between finishing their American stint and a month in mainland Europe. Tonight, at the Indigo at London’s The O2 complex in North Greenwich, we’re going to be treated to the finest in modern soul, wholesome unity between the numerous band members, and one heck of a glorious sequin cape.

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St. Paul & The Broken Bones @ Indigo at The O2
St. Paul & The Broken Bones @ Indigo at The O2

“I made the dumb mistake of falling asleep when I got in last night, you all look like lizard people right now,” jokes vocalist Paul Janeway between songs. Jet lag hasn’t slowed him down in the slightest as he directs the band like a conductor, waving his hands theatrically at key moments and alternating between heartfelt chest clutching and gleeful grooving. From the very opening number, Flow With It (You Got Me Feeling Like), Janeway displays a frankly insane vocal range, hitting the high notes effortlessly while pacing and strutting though the funk baselines of the song. Call Me is the number that thaws the audience though, with a clap along that starts a balcony party. St. Paul And The Broken Bones are like the wedding band from cult romantic comedy who end up winning the Oscar ahead of the actors, and we dance without self consciousness while waitresses carry drinks around us on trays like bottom-lit UFOs.

While Janeway is clearly the frontman, tonight is very much a team effort with a moment in the spotlight freely granted to all. Half The City is slinky and tender, and whole band unfolds dramatic cuts and changes in tempo between pauses that build and rise, finishing on Janeway’s wail which dissolves into crowd screams. They move almost into the midnight real of jazz for the instrumental tracks before reforming for Don’t Mean A Thing, heartbroken ballad that picks up steam then slowly climbs back to happiness before a long, a Capella outro to let the spirit soar. “We’re gonna do a song about a mythological creature, it’s an abomination…” grins Janeway before standout tune Minotaur. Its popping, stylish sci fi beats fall under a misty green light and swim in rich hollow echos and sweet, mysterious tones on the bridge. Apollo goes in totally the opposite direction, creating an instant and heavenly singalong with chirping synth effects: it’s gorgeous, jumping Americana, the soundtrack for the perfect prom we never had.

It’s a quick set at just over an hour, but it seems to fly by at an even quicker pace. The gorgeous guitar clicks of Like A Mighty River signal the encore, as does Janeway’s wardrobe change into a full length glittery kimono that would suit Elton John to a tee. He guides us through Sanctify, a pleasantly proggy meander through the weirdness and excess of the seventies, like a magical Soul ringmaster before throwing out The Last Dance, full of disco frivolity with a dark liquorice core. “It’s the ten year anniversary of us releasing our debut record,” he proclaims. “I didn’t even have a passport before this band. I never thought I’d get out of the state of Alabama. I even like sushi now!” The closing number, Broken Bones And Pocket Change, is the song we’ve been waiting for all night. It’s so warm, so golden, heavy with comfort and misdirected romance, the tune unravelling at the edges through years of practice and love. While it’s only a flying visit to London, we’re left overjoyed that St. Paul and the Broken Bones took the time to let us into their world of timeless, passionate Soul.

  • St Paul & The Broken Bones at Indigo at the O2 05 June 2024
  • St Paul & The Broken Bones at Indigo at the O2 05 June 2024
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Live review of St. Paul and The Broken Bones at Indigo at The O2, London on 5th June 2024 by Kate Allvey, photography by Abigail Shii.

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