Royal Southern Brotherhood -- offering "Exile on Royal Street," a tribute to the Rolling Stones' quintessential album, "Exile on Main Street" -- along with St. Louis' own jazz/funk ensemble, Funky Butt Brass Band as opening act, sealed the deal for a guaranteed good time.
With party hats all around and drinks flowing, Funky Butt Brass Band took the stage around 10, providing a taste of New Orleans via St. Louis, working the crowd with their funky grooves, including "St. Louis Breakdown" and "A Certain Girl," as well as covers of Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" and the Allman Brothers Band's "Whipping Post" and "One Way Out."
The festive (and tipsy) New Year's crowd was more than pumped, when around 11:30 p.m., National Blues Museum co-founder Dave Beardsley got up to introduce Royal Southern Brotherhood, featuring St. Louis-native blues guitarists Devon Allman and Mike Zito, along with New Orleans royalty Cyril Neville, bassist Charlie Wooten and drummer Yonrico Scott. Aaron Chandler, Ben Reece and Adam Hucke from Funky Butt Brass Band joined on horns, and Chuck Berry Band keyboardist Bob Lohr rounded out the sound as the band launched into the raucous "Rocks Off" while the clocked ticked down the remains of 2013.
It's a feat for any band to take on the Stones' masterpiece and do it justice, but Royal Southern Brotherhood gave it a valiant effort and mostly succeeded. Possibly due to time constraints they rearranged the song order a bit, bumping "Happy" and "Ventilator Blues" up to the first few songs, and leaving some out entirely, unfortunately including "Loving Cup," which seemed a glaring omission.
After a minute's pause to count down to midnight, RSB bore into blues classic "Hip Shake," before slowing down and sitting for an acoustic "Sweet Virginia." Allman, Neville and Zito took turns on lead vocals throughout the night. Though all three did a fine job, Neville's voice seemed the most ideally suited to the material, particularly on the foot-stomping "Stop Breaking Down."
One set highlight was "Shine a Light," which seemed a fitting blessing for the New Year, as Allman belted, "May the good Lord shine a light on you; make every song you sing your favorite tune."
After RSB ended the "Exile" portion of the show, they continued with a late-night set of their own material for those not quite ready to hang up their dancing shoes.
Although the show was nearly sold out, the Old Rock House never felt uncomfortably cramped and the crowd was mostly cheery and polite -- the overall convivial vibe of people who knew they'd chosen wisely. After all, watching some of the finest musicians around playing some of the most beloved tunes of all time isn't too shabby a way to ring in the New Year.