PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It starts so mild-mannered.
Hours before they took the stage Tuesday night at Union Transfer in Philadelphia, St. Paul And The Broken Bones assembled slowly in the back channels of the Spring Garden Street spot.
The eight-piece soul group from Birmingham is here for a sold out show built on the back of their excellent second album Sea Of Noise and their reputation for an amazing live show.
As the gear unloads, the donuts arrive and singer Paul Janeway wanders the hall with brown sugar fingers. His t-shirt and baseball hat are a far cry from the cape and fire-engine-red suit he’ll stalk the stage in later.
On a couch in the practice room backstage, Janeway talks about what to expect that evening.
“I’ve always wanted to be a band that’s at least just as good live, if not better” he smiles. “Artists that I admire, artists that I love, they’re usually a really good live band. If you’re not a good live band or you don’t put on a good show I’m probably not gonna like you, as an artist.”
“For me, I call it an hour and a half of therapy each night. For me that’s kind of how I view it. It’s a little bit of method acting and you kind of get into this character a little bit.”
That “character” is a much bigger louder version of Paul Janeway. He emerges on stage wearing a cape – voice and hands reaching towards the rafters as if he’s summoning something.
“Time to lose yourself, it’s time to set yourself free,” he says to the electrified crowd.
With an Al Green swerve and hips that move in time to the trumpet’s blast, Janeway is an excitable ball of energy. He slinks across the stage like it’s the dance floor in the last hour of an open bar wedding. He’s free of inhibitions with a charming lack of polish, but a voice that’s dynamic and playfully powerful.
This is a soul superhero version of the charming, humble Alabaman that sits with me hours before.
“I think you’re battling demons a little bit and trying to find that human connection with complete strangers,” Janeway says of the therapeutic nature of a St. Paul show. “Sometimes during a show I’ll feel very vulnerable, like you’re almost naked in front of an audience. I don’t get stage fright or anything, but there’s times where you just get in this real weird element and the song takes you to a certain place and you’re fully exposed to an audience – and it’s a very odd sensation.”
“The thing that I realized is that I can’t do it any other way. I have to be full throttle, fully invested or I feel like I’m cheating the audience, I’m cheating the band, you know what I mean?”
Part of the reason that St. Paul And The Broken Bones create that human connection is the Paul that lives inside this character he’s created. The southern gentlemen who talks about donuts and vacation a few hours prior is seen in the smile of this larger than life persona on stage. It’s charming, and it’s exciting.
“If you didn’t have a good time I’m sorry” Janeway says as he paced the stage during the evening’s encore. “You’re doing it wrong” he grins.
To hear more from Paul Janeway of St. Paul And The Broken Bones, including his friendship with Elton John and his Oscar night party, check out the full interview below.