Dazzling an audience with live renditions from her debut album, Jamie, solo artist Brittany Howard gave a world class performance at the Hollywood Bowl on Sept. 18. Her debut appearance at the famed venue was an awe inspiring event in which Howard channeled the essence of soul, funk, jazz, rock n’ roll and just about everything in between. Reaching deep inside of her being, Howard poured out the sparkling contents of her psyche to capture just a glimmer of the human condition in which love, loss, pain and joy all served as the backdrop for the night’s soulful journey.
Strutting on stage, dancing without inhibition and picking up and placing down her guitar with a casual confidence, Howard sent her unbridled joy to all in attendance and used her musical platform to spread love, acceptance and spiritual grit. Running through her album with meticulous care and adhering to a commitment to excellence, Howard’s performance left no one in need or want for anything else. Even more so, Howard seemed to instinctually sink into the hearts and minds of her fans to reveal a depth and profoundness not previously tapped into; the result of which left her in full command of of her audience.
Never boastful or unaware of the power she holds, Howard and her band showered attendees with adoration and a zealous thankfulness at being so well received.
From the romantic and sultry performance of “Georgia” to the light as air rendition of “Stay High,” Howard did her best to encapsulate the human ability to love deeply and live freely. Other singles, such as “History Repeats” and “Goat Head,” touched on the tangled webs we have woven throughout the decades and sought to address these perversities of culture and society not with more hate, but with a call for compassion and understanding.
Howard’s ability to not just captivate an audience but take them along on a spiritual excursion was evident from the moment she stepped on stage and never faltered or wavered as the evening wore on. Showcasing a truly organic talent for showmanship, her performance combined vocal acrobatics, effortless guitar chops and a vivacious stage presence that magnified the powerful messages distilled in her music. Beyond her abilities as an artist, the evening swayed to an intrinsic, intangible quintessence that can only be felt, not explained.
Throughout the night, Howard and co. touched on themes and concepts that reflect a modern day approach to morality and our individual responsibility to grow and learn from our mistakes.
As a part of KCRW’s World Festival Series, in conjunction with the LA Phil, Howard was accompanied by musicians Georgia Anne Muldrow and Jamila Woods. Muldrow, stepping on stage first, hit attendees like a freight train, with a fearless jazz improv performance influenced by a rich cultural heritage while Woods pulled from a repertoire of original songs and diverse covers from Nirvana to Tracy Chapman. Both celebrated the uniqueness and beauty of their heritage, skin color and prowess as strong and independent individuals.
While it’s hard to identify just a single moment of brilliance from the night, Howard’s potent talents as a musician and orator came to full crescendo with the performance of her single, “13th Century Metal.” Taking the already powerful song to prophetic heights, Howard pledged herself once again to the pursuit of spreading love, light and empathy. Reminding us that our efforts can never be stomped out if we are earnest and steadfast, she extended her efforts to encourage others to do the same.
Since the hiatus of her former band, the Alabama Shakes, Howard has been busy constructing a musical kingdom of righteous philosophy, one where honesty, humility and compassion glitter like jewels on a net, connecting each one of us to each other despite consorted efforts to keep us divided in thought and action. Encompassing a beautiful humility, but not lacking in self-assuredness, Howard makes note of our individual ability to make a difference in this world. Two years into a solo journey, this Grammy-winning artist has only just begun to share the beautiful and intricate inner workings of her soul. Already, she has given us a swarth of high class performances and an album full of thought provoking and meaningful messages.
Words: Patti Sanchez