Well-known for the wholesome, teetotaling lifestyle that earned him his saintly nickname, St. Paul & the Broken Bones frontman Paul Janeway stayed true to his word and even flew over the crowd like an angel Saturday night in the city that shares his name.
“We get it: St. Paul in St. Paul,” the singer for the Alabaman soul-rock band told the sold-out Palace Theatre crowd a few songs into their already soaring show. “We feel a connection to this city.”
Janeway connected, all right.
Though he looks more like a timid youth pastor than a powerhouse soul singer — and on Saturday he wore a glitzy, gold-and-black-sequin robe that made him look like a cross between Adele and an archbishop from the nearby Cathedral of St. Paul — the bespectacled vocalist danced and pranced on stage like a fiery rock ’n’ roll showman.
Janeway also left the crowd awe-struck numerous times throughout the 95-minute performance with his indisputably divine voice. The first of those big-wow moments came four songs in with the Al Green-flavored, gospel-y gusher “Like a Mighty River.” The peak came just before the encore with the new showstopper “Bruised Fruit.”
Local fans became early converts to Janeway’s raw vocal power back in 2014 just around the corner from the Palace at the Amsterdam Bar & Hall. Word-of-mouth and strong radio support from 89.3 the Current (which filmed Saturday’s show for webcast) helped the otherwise cultish Birmingham-reared band move to the five-times-bigger venue in less than five years.
As if to cap off the impressive rise with a literal ascent, St. Paul the singer made a physical connection with the St. Paul audience at show’s end.
He delivered the finale “Broken Bones and Pocket Change” from the theater’s balcony, daringly leaning over the crowd like a young Eddie Vedder.
As if his voice wasn’t already soaring high enough, Paul Janeway @StP_BrokenBones came up to the @PalaceStPaul balcony to deliver tonight’s last song, Broken Bones & Pocket Change. I feared he was headed for some broken bones the few times he leaned over. pic.twitter.com/uCkCptELG6— C. Riemenschneider (@ChrisRstrib) March 24, 2019
Midway through the set, Janeway and his bandmates — including a three-piece horn section integral to both the rhythms and melodies — also made brave moves musically as they bundled together songs from their experimental third album, “Young Sick Camellia.” The dark and stormy, disco-grunge groover “Convex” and the electronic “Mr. Invisible” (featuring looped vocals and “Rain Dogs”-like ambience) veered a bit too far from the band’s old-school-R&B, though, and were mostly lost on the crowd.
As if recognizing the lull, Janeway announced to fans, “It’s time to move your ass,” before launching into the retro-funky “GotItBad.” Again, the dude wasn’t lying.
“GotItBad” became an electrifying workout for the rest of the group, which turned into a blissful New Orleans brass band for a few minutes.
And then came the pre-encore triumph “Bruised Fruit,” a crescendoing power-ballad that was truly Adele-like with its dramatic climax.
As he returned to the stage for a victory lap, Janeway humbly bragged about getting a new star painted on the walls of the Palace’s sister venue, First Avenue, where the band played in 2016: “Tonight might be our last show, because that’s all I wanted to accomplish in life,” he said.
Let’s hope, at least, that was a lie.