Brittany Howard of the Alabama Shakes joined The Roots on Monday to cover The Temptations’ “Ball of Confusion.” Written in 1970, the song was released on Motown and written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong. Forty-five years later, their rendition of the classic was arguably the best cover of a night in which Stevie Wonder and The Dave Matthews band covered John Lennon’s “Imagine,” and Coldplay covered Chuck Berry’s, “You Can Never Tell.”
The Dave Matthews Band, who have been outspoken about recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, decided to put on a free concert in their hometown on September 25th. The lineup included Ariana Grande, Pharrell, Justin Timberlake, the Roots, Brittany Howard, and others. Stevie Wonder surprised everyone with his reportedly stunning performance of Lennon’s “Imagine.” Coldplay’s Chris Martin and Jonny Buckland came out to play an acoustic set of five songs. Pharrell introduced them. A favorite was their cover of Berry’s “You Can Never Tell,” in which the electric and acoustic guitars of the pair complimented the song’s swinging rhythm with a rosy melody. Martin’s voice’s nonchalance contrasts Berry’s authoritative curtness; one suggests nostalgia and the other urgency.
Brittany Howard however brought the most energy of the evening with her performance of “Ball of Confusion.” Brittany’s voice delivers the powerful force of the song as it changes along with the steady freight train of the Roots’ melody. The horns provided perfect emphasis as the guitar and bass relentlessly tugged away at their riff, never wavering.
Howard began with the Alabama Shakes in 2009. Hailing from Alabama as their name suggests, the band achieved mainstream cultural success with their 2012 album, Boys & Girls. It reached number eight on the national charts. Fans and critics often accredit Howard’s compelling stage presence as a reason for the group’s quick rise to, and lasting success. The New York Times describes the band’s “rapid ascent” as a result of “Howard’s singular stage presence.” Since Boys & Girls, the band’s next album went to Billboard’s number one. Sound & Color was a huge success and the group’s first number one album, in only two tries.
Howard has also been involved in another project, Bermuda Triangle. Along with Becca Mancari and Jesse Lafser, Howard’s Bermuda Triangle made its debut this year. Mancari and Lafser are well known on the Nashville scene; Howard’s addition will unite musical scenes from across the country.
Photography Credit: Sharon Alagna