Before the quartet started, the crowd pledged, "I solemnly swear to spread the word that St. Louis rocks the blues." We were now anointed into the brotherhood and ready to enjoy the talents of Devon Allman (guitar, vocals), Cyril Neville (vocals, percussion), Yonrico Scott (drums), Charlie Wooten (bass) and Mike Zito (guitar, vocals). Labeled as a "super group," Royal Southern Brotherhood is built on the individual talents of each of these formidable artists, not simply the history their famous names carry. And while they each claim different places as their homes, local roots were strong on that stage, too.
Mike Zito is from St. Louis and rightfully proud of it. Before the music started, Zito took a picture of the crowd and told us repeatedly that it was great to be home. He also revealed to us that Devon Allman, son of Greg Allman, has roots in St. Charles so they "must be doing something right up there" he said, to laughter from the crowd.
The crowd exuded appreciation, awe and even a little selfish ownership. The show started with "Fired Up," the second track from the band's self-titled release. On this uptempo, upbeat rock song the percussion really shined under the masterful hands of Neville. The Caribbean vibe made it feel like you were seeing them at a summer music festival, if you could successfully suspend February's cold reality.
Neville's inner showman came out during "Moonlight over the Mississippi." He was the consummate bluesman as he sang from the gut about getting back to his woman. Charlie Wooten's bass took over and the deep, round plunk, plunk of the notes gave sound to each footstep along the banks of the river. The group did several covers, including "Melissa." Zito and Allman's guitars came together and harmonized so beautifully during this song that you almost wished they would unplug and play quietly for awhile.
Zito and Allman took turns on vocals. Allman opened the show with his band, also comprised of several local talents and really warmed up the crowd. In his opening set, he gave the audience a taste of the Southern rock sound that's in his DNA. While Allman's voice is forceful, yet smooth, Zito's is rougher around the edges. Those edges make his voice interesting and a nice foil to Allman's.
Two Grammy winners stood on the stage, and Yonrico Scott was one of them (Neville, the other). During a break, each band member did a solo and left the stage to Scott who really gave us all he had. He played with a mischievous grin on his face, like he was having the best time in the world and didn't ever want to stop. His beats called out to the crowd and we called back. It was just one of many examples of the sincere connection between these performers and their audience. If there was one theme that united this performance, it was that feeling of happiness and joy. It hung in the air, from the first song in the opening set to the last note of the night.
As Cyril Neville told us, "I'm feeling the love, St. Louis."