SAN FRANCISCO — Clad in a long, glittery, multicolored robe and Adidas that would get a workout, Brittany Howard stepped onto the Fillmore stage to a packed crowd. Howard, the Alabama Shakes frontwoman and guitarist, was just nominated for another two Grammys the previous day. More importantly, she put on the show of a lifetime.
Howard was in the Bay Area for her solo debut album, Jaime. Howard is a restless soul. She wrote Jaime on a cross-country drive. It’s a deeply personal album, named for Howard’s sister, who died at 13 of cancer.
She played all the songs off of her new album and included a few covers, starting with “He Loves Me,” on which she showed off her sweet vocals and her band some tight drumming. Howard continued right into “Georgia,” which was even more sultry, big and breathy than on the album. The guitar solos on came to life on the stage. Her vocals filled the room as much as her presence. Howard was a tour-de-force and commanded the room.
Two back-up singers, three guitarists, a drummer, a keyboardist and an organ player got ample times to shine. “Stay High” showcased the back-up singers, and that was the moment the concert felt like church. The gospel singing was infectious with handclaps, swaying and dancing.
“This is for the Purple one; may he rest in power,” Howard said. With her sweet Southern twang, she talked about playing at Prince’s house and how “The Breakdown” was his favorite one of her songs, which she performed with her signature screams.
“Tomorrow” was a gospel R&B song, and Howard hit notes like no other as she belted out the word “tomorrow!” During the keyboard solo, she softened her voice so you could hear every note of the keyboard before she would burst out into the ether. “Short and Sweet” was an acoustic guitar solo with her gruff, raspy vocals. It also showed off a soft and tenderness vulnerability.
Howard was at the top of her game and beyond excited to be at the Fillmore. The energy was palpable.
“I’m going to act as weird as I want, because I don’t know you,” she said mid-set. “I feel we’re getting to know each other a lot better now,” she added, later. It was endearing, quirky and personable.
During the uplifting “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher,” the joy was palpable. Her cover of The Beatles’ “Revolution” took the song in a new direction. It was fierce, gritty, bluesy Southern rock. The energy was percolating before Howard’s explosive screaming and turning it into a gospel number.
Meanwhile, “13th Century Metal” started out as electronic, percussive, dance-heavy song and turned into a slam poetry jam. Howard spoke of the “dark ages of fear … speaking for those who cannot speak.”
“We are all brothers and sisters for MLK,” she said. With her fist raised in the air she started screaming “us” before disappearing off the stage only to come back for an explosive heavy guitar jam session with her band.
Her encore included the Grammy-nominated “History Repeats,” a funk-disco jam.
Howard shined when she showed her vulnerability, such as closer “Run To Me,” which she’d written for herself when she was too tired, weak and doubtful.
“I ain’t never tired,” she said, baring her soul once more. She probably could have continued on and on.
Georgia Anne Muldrow opened the show, spinning hip-hop electronic jams as a DJ and throwing down rhymes. Her performance was avant-garde and futuristic, and she entertained fans by yelling for them to dance.
Her duet with her husband, Dudley Perkins, was catchy and inspiring. “One light, one love, one God,” she sang before explaining the song was about loving your neighbor like you love yourself.