The last time Alabama Shakes — the Athens, Alabama, powerhouse that transforms the most basic chord progressions into soulful epiphanies better than any Southern outfit out there — hit Studio 8H, the world wouldn’t stop talking about two things: Brittany Howard’s voice, and Brittany Howard’s mouth. With 2012’s Boys and Girls came the warmly received debut of the Shakes and “Hold On,” the breakout single that had Howard reining in a long note with the skill and might of a rock ‘n’ roll rodeo cowgirl. “Hold On,” easy to sing along with and easier to love, was the tune folks remembered from their several festival appearances in the following year, and also what they started with the first time they played Saturday Night Live, in February 2013. Howard roared, the studio fell all over themselves applauding her vocal prowess, and assholes across the internet cracked jokes at her expense because, yeah, she opens wide when she’s letting loose with some serious sound.
In 2015, it’s gotten a bit better as the music continues to outshine the shallow jabs thrown Howard’s way. Alabama Shakes amassed a voracious fan base and drummed up interest for Boys and Girls‘ much-anticipated follow-up, Sound & Color, which will see its release April 21. Brittany and the boys gave SNL viewers a two-part sneak preview starting with “Don’t Wanna Fight,” which is far more moody, pensive, and heartbroken (though just as rousing) than the songs we’ve come to expect from them. Howard rocked a pair of earrings fashioned out of a black-and-white rendition of Prince’s face, and it’d be safe to assume the Purple One would’ve approved of her furious licks and emotive guitar work.
With “Gimme All Your Love,” Alabama Shakes offered up a range broader than a Crayola box of 64 crayons, savoring every shade and nuance as they dipped from somber lows to devastatingly sincere cries for affection to driving soul breakdowns. A band that can make the SNL stage work for them as far as dynamics are concerned is one that knows how to adapt to an unforgiving performance environment, one where it frequently doesn’t have control over what the hell’s coming out of the monitors or how the chords are hitting the audience tuning in. Alabama Shakes succeeded in making SNL acquiesce to their conditions for an exceptional performance, and it just proves, once again, that the songs are far more interesting a conversation topic than the elasticity of Howard’s lips.
That didn’t stop a few people from commenting on it, of course, but it’s heartwarming to see that the reception Alabama Shakes received on Twitter was overwhelmingly positive. (And they were trending for a bit last night, too!)
Howard’s Prince earrings were a MASSIVE hit, so, girl, give us the name of that jeweler — your adoring public wants a pair of their own.
— Carrie Winchel (@MrsWrocks) March 1, 2015
— Nicole Sudhoff (@sudsymom) March 1, 2015
— Tina Krueger (@1whitesoxfan) March 1, 2015
Glad your priorities were in check brah.
I usually pee during the #SNL musical guest, but Alabama Shakes had me holdin’ it in. DAMN.
— Matt Fishman (@MattFishman) March 1, 2015
THIS IS THE BEST COMPLIMENT SO OBVIOUSLY IT IS MEANT IN THE BEST WAY.
Alabama Shakes looks like the band from the Muppets, and I mean that in the nicest way possible #SNL
— Jeremy Pick (@pickproductions) March 1, 2015
Bassist Zac Cockrell’s beard was almost obsessed about as much as Howard’s mouth, and hey, that is a glorious explosion of beautiful facial hair.
— Justin Douglas (@JD_Squared) March 1, 2015
Alabama Shakes bass player is still my favorite guy. He’s like The Fly remade with Dom DeLuise and then instead of a fly it’s Bruce Vilanch.
— Garrett Martin (@grmartin) March 1, 2015
Mom and Dad stop, you’re so embarrassiiiiiiiiiiiing.
— Macy Muirhead (@simplymacy) March 1, 2015
And again, YES WE GET IT PEOPLE SHE CAN OPEN WIDE LET’S MOVE ON. #justsaying #doesntneedtobesaidanyway
— Mhairi Lintott (@mllintot) March 1, 2015
— Ron Overlock (@rono76) March 1, 2015
— mårgarët ℓynn (@magoogaboob) March 1, 2015