Straight outta Birmingham, Alabama, and armed with new material, St. Paul & The Broken Bones held court Tuesday night at The Wiltern with a set that evidenced an evolution from the raw, excited throwback tone of their first album, 2014’s Half the City, to a more pensive and experimental flavor on new LP Sea of Noise.

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Photos by Katy Babcock

Louisiana newcomers the Seratones held their own in the opening slot. Front woman AJ Haynes, at least temporarily retired from her former job as a high school teacher, owned the stage as if she left the classroom ages ago. Her spirited strut served as an appropriate accompaniment to the well-oiled machine that is the Seratones.

One moment, Haynes flexed her honeyed falsetto or let out a mid-song “Woo!” that would make Jack White proud. The next, the band would drop into a killer garage groove driven by Jesse Gabriel’s fierce drumming. On tour in support of Get Gone, they executed their tunes with ferocity and precision.

The garage rock revival culminated with Haynes on tambourine for “Chandelier.” Toward the song’s end, she dropped down in to the pit area to finish the set aside the fans. When the ruckus was over, Haynes leaned back in the shadows against one of the giant columns that flank The Wiltern stage. She needed to catch her breath.

St. Paul & the Broken Bones remain true to their soulful selves on their newest album, but they have averted the dreaded sophomore slump with a side step swift enough to make frontman Paul Janeway himself proud.

The cheerful, soul-singing, supremely expressive dance machine namesake of St. Paul & The Broken Bones is a force to be reckoned with. The affable Janeway could pass for a young John Candy in sparkly shoes, cutting a rug with an arsenal of moves that suggest a refined moonwalk truffle shuffle. The Broken Bones are without question a tightly knit group, but Janeway’s energy is their lifeblood.

It’s an infectious Springsteen-like charisma that leaves me feeling if Paul Janeway is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

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On the third song, “Like a Mighty River,” Browan Lollar ripped an inspiring solo on his Flying V that led to Janeway letting loose himself. After nailing his vocals, he let the microphone slump over as if his voice had killed it; the wire remained in his hand, the dead mic swinging like a pendulum below it.

With Sea of Noise played in its entirety, many new songs received their LA debut. Among the highlights was “Sanctify,” which somehow intertwined the divine and the erotic (“Let me sanctify you, baby”). Encore “Is It Me” brought things down to tender lullaby hymnal before “Burning Rome” unfurled at an easygoing pace similar to that of “A Change Is Gonna Come.”

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It shouldn’t be a surprise that the group puts down a commanding juke-joint set when you realize they were hired last summer for a couple of career-broadening stadium gigs opening for The Rolling Stones. What was shocking was a most unlikely Radiohead Kid A cover (“The National Anthem”).

Ever the pastor, Janeway brought the house down during the biographically titled “Broken Bones & Pocket Change.” As the song unfolded, Janeway removed one shoe and tossed it across the stage. Soon he was crawling around until his head was under the drum riser. He wasn’t done.

As if possessed, Janeway rolled himself up into the golden yellow runner carpet just before removing his other shoe. Now appearing punch drunk, he finished the song standing proudly in his white socks, a fittingly unexpected moment in a show full of surprises.

St. Paul & The Broken Bones at The Wiltern Setlist

Intro/Crumbling Light Posts, Pt. 1
Flow with It (You Got Me Feeling Like)
Like a Mighty River
I’ll Be Your Woman
Tears in the Diamond
National Anthem (Radiohead cover)
Crumbling Light Posts, Pt. 2
Brain Matter
Broken Bones & Pocket Change
Everything is Everything (Donny Hathaway cover)
La bruit
Midnight on the Earth
Waves
Sanctify
Call Me
Half the City
Grass Is Greener
Loran’s Dance (Idris Muhammed cover)
All I Ever Wonder

Encore:
Is It Me
I’ve Been Working (Van Morrison cover)
Burning Rome

For more information:
St. Paul & the Broken Bones
Seratones

Lead photo by David McClister