Nashville – Before Alanna Royale was ever seen at her record release show on October 4 at Exit/In, she was heard. In traditional soul/funk style, the bearded crew that backs the Nashville songstress came out and laid down a tight vamp as the crowd awaited the showstopper’s arrival. But, before ever setting foot on stage, Alanna sent out one belting note to let the crowd know what they were in for. The tightly packed room at the Elliston Pl. venue (which recently celebrated its 43rd year in operation) erupted into a wave of cheers and applause. The singer then burst onto the stage. What followed was nearly 2 hours of boundless funk, trash talking, and resonating notes from a voice box that reigns with the power of a cathedral’s pipe organ.
The band stormed through the opening number, “Last to Know,” the first track off their new release, Achilles. Their blend sounds like it could easily be coming out of a record player in Detroit in 1965. Additionally, Alanna Royale doesn’t look like most other singers cutting their teeth in Nashville. She’s not singing about her daddy’s tractor or fronting some indie band in a plaid button down. Instead, she struts across the stage like the Motown goddesses who came before her, her arms accented by tattoos and her messy brown curls adorned with a single blonde streak.
Alanna also curses like a sailor. When the band ripped into their third number, “Tennessee Heat,” Alanna declared “This is for all of you O.G. mother f***ers.” Shifting gears and showing versatility, they crashed into a cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” followed by “Go,” a fast, pop-infused song written post-Achilles. “Phantom Limb,” a song Alanna connects to overcoming loss, brought the moonstruck crowd to a solemn hush with her sheer emotion. The powerful sextet behind her ceaselessly provided a wall of support through the whole set.
There were some additions to the normal Alanna Royale lineup last Saturday night as well. The group was joined intermittently by a pair of backup singers throughout the set, and a string trio made an appearance for “Rock & Stone” and “Nobody Else.”
The high point of the evening came when the band laid down the raunchiest version of Rod Stewart’s “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” in existence. I have no doubt that had Mr. Stewart been in the audience he would have stood up and applauded. If the sheer brilliance of the cover wasn’t enough, Alanna took the time to single out a too-cool patron who had spent the entirety of the anthem staring at his smartphone. “To the guy in the blue and white hat…if I’m up here singing Rod Stewart and you can’t even look up than I must be doing something wrong” she quipped. Her jeering was joined by cries of agreement from the audience.
Alanna Royale has the pipes of a theater kid and the mouth of a football coach, but it is her tireless band that rounds out the soul train that blew through Exit/In. Kirk Donovan (trumpet) and Diego Vasquez (trombone) spit out crisp high notes like bullets out of a gun. The energy required to keep up with Alanna and put wind through the horn must lead to an exhaustion felt by few others. Gabe Golden (bass) and Matt Snow (drums) lay down a warm and seductive tone groove for the rest of the band to stack up on top of. Jared Colby (guitars) plays with a rawness and energy that matches perfectly to Alanna’s gorgeous vocal range and style. This band is a tight machine that could easily be transported to Hitsville USA’s Studio A and few would notice the difference.
When the crowd finally stumbled out at 1am the infectious music was still carrying through their feet as they dispersed into a cool autumn night. “How long,” I’m sure a few asked themselves, “Until we get to feel that funk again?”
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