The Orpheum Theater opened up its 2017 Jazz Fest After Dark series with two amazing and completely different shows. St. Paul and the Broken Bones played Thursday night and Bed Harper and the Innocent Criminals of Friday night. It goes without saying, but both of these bands could have easily found a spot on the Jazz Fest schedule, but as it is, the bands were able to pick up on that Jazz Fest energy and put on two epic shows.
St. Paul and the Broken Bones is a soul band based in Birmingham, Alabama. Paul Janeway and bassist Jesse Phillips formed the band in 2012. The two met in the mid-2000s while playing in Birmingham as part of the alternative soul getup, The Secret Dangers. Thursday marked St. Paul’s fifth appearance in as many years. Having only two CD’s and a few ep’s kept the set on point. Also, it allowed Paul to give a shout out to New Orleans native and sax/flute player Jason Mingledorff. “How would you like to hear a flute solo?” Everyone on stage had their time to shine. Janeway’s energy on stage is nothing short of exhausting. I think he managed to cover the whole stage by the end of the second song. In some ways, his take on soul, could easily be an evolution of the big band scene. The Orpheum was the perfect place to kick off the 2017 Jazz Fest After Dark shows. St. Paul and the Broken Bones were a joy and I see no reason why they won’t be on one of the main stages in the future.
Ben Harper’s latest tour with the Innocent Criminals got its kickoff at the Orpheum. Benjamin Chase "Ben" Harper has been on the music scene since 1992. During that time he has amassed a huge catalog of solo material as well as collaboration with The Blind Boys of Alabama and The Innocent Criminals. Friday’s show was in support of the Innocent Criminals latest release, Call it What it Is. The set of course was chalked with several of those tracks.
I for the most part, didn’t have a complete grasp of the beast that is Ben Harper. The evening started off with a solo set, and then evolved into a whole band experience. Ben plays with such passion that one can easily get lost watching him. Being a multi-instrumentalist, Ben switched up what and how he was playing all night. While trying to call out a highlight from the show would be hard, since it was all great, I kept going back to the tune the late Heath Ledger directed the video for, “Morning Yearning” (see below). You could easily see how the experience weighed on Ben and in effect, created a beautiful moment.
Jazz Fest is in full effect and the night shows are rolling. The kickoff at the Orpheum was a perfect was to get things started. Week two’s shows there also look amazing, so do yourself a favor and catch one or two!