ALABAMA SHAKES, THE SALTAIR, Friday, March 8, 7:30 p.m., $27 day of show
I thought the hype surrounding Alabama Shakes was outrageously out of proportion a year ago when the band played The State Room and had a deafening buzz before their album, Boys & Girls, had even been released. Since then, they've closed opening night of 2012's Bonnaroo festival, had their tune "Always Alright" play over the closing credits of Oscar-winning flick Silver Linings Playbook, been nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy, and played Saturday Night Live just a couple weeks back. So, yeah, the hype is still pretty heavy. At that State Room show, I was underwhelmed. At best they seemed like little more than a top-notch bar band, and stretching one album into a headlining set proved tricky. Even so, there was no denying Brittany Howard's appeal as a frontwoman, playing guitar and wailing with genuine passion. On the best tracks of Boys & Girls, and on some of the televised performances of Alabama Shakes I've seen in the past year, she seems incredibly comfortable on the big stage. And that's what they have for their Friday show at the Saltair, where they'll be joined by Michael Kiwanuka, Sam Doores and Riley Dowling opening the show.