Sunday, December 9, 2007

Hardest Working Woman in Show Business

For a slideshow with larger images go here.
I was wrong about one thing. When you see Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, you forget all about Aretha Franklin, the Temps, the Spinners, Tower of Power or almost any of those other '60s/'70s soul-funk acts. If you think of anybody, and the entire evening is structured to invite the comparison, it's The Godfather of Soul, Mr. James Brown.

At one point, Jones herself tried to evoke Tina Turner -- "I ain't got Tina Turner legs, but these little legs are gonna do a little Tina Turner strut" -- but even that didn't stick.

From before the time Jones even comes onstage, the show feels like a James Brown Revue. The eight-piece Dap-Kings -- with two guitars, bass, tenor and baritone saxophones, trumpet, drums and percussion -- recall Brown's legendary band, the J.B.'s. Then, like Fats Gonder used to do with Brown, guitarist Binky Griptite gives Jones an extended, hyperbolic, boxing-champ style introduction before bringing her on.

By the end, when Jones sang Brown's "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World" as an encore -- she really turns that song around! -- the comparison was unavoidable and complete.

Mostly what you get during the show, though, is not a JB tribute or nostalgia act, but an original, totally moving experience. It's music that almost dares you not to dance. And unlike some great performers -- like Bob Dylan or Neil Young, whose music I love but who rarely engage at all with the audience, or like Bruce Springsteen, who does, but who apparently trusts the experience so little that he has been caught applying fake sweat -- SJ&TDK really seem to love playing the gig. She talked to the crowd throughout, and several times brought audience members onstage to dance with her. It seemed like there was no place she'd rather have been.

The show didn't end until after 1 in the morning -- amazing considering the starting time was listed as 9. Then again, the main act didn't start anywhere near 9; it was more like 11:15. Running late after the P-I holiday party, we were afraid we'd miss the start of the show. Instead we waited around until 10, when a three-piece opening act came on ("We are Megatron!"). They were OK, I guess, in a sort of Les McCann-meets-Herb Albpert, TV theme song way, but I thought the set would never end. I was Megabored. The big finish of their set was an extended jam on the theme from "Sesame Street," which, weirdly, the entire audience seemed to know and dig. I felt old.

Michelle had a photo pass and took some incredible pictures of Sharon and the band. I hope she'll post some soon. Me, I went to bed with a soulful, grooving ringing in my ears, and woke up with Jones' awesome version of "This Land is Your Land" in my head.

Don't miss this show if it comes to your town. Final grade: an easy 4 gliomas.

Evening update: You can now see these and fan photos on SPI.


Michelle said...

Great review, totally exactly right. EXCEPT -- this was without question a FIVE glioma show.

Mark said...

Thank you, baby, but it's a four-glioma scale, with no half-gliomas.

P.S. Two bits of Sharon Jones trivia I meant to mention:

a) She's from Augusta, Ga., which also is James Brown's hometown.

b) (my favorite) She used to work as a prison guard, at Riker's Island, N.Y.

Michelle said...


kateco said...

I am pea green with envy

Mark said...

Great photos, Michelle. What a fun night.

kateco said...

Now that I've seen th cool slideshow, I am kind of a frothy sea green with envy.

mich said...

God, I was jealous enough before seeing this. Now I'm even more bummed that I didn't bite the bullet and get tickets to this. Thanks for helping me live vicariously, even if it's kind of painful...

Mark said...

You would have loved it, Mich. I guess tickets were pretty hard to come by -- I heard even Craigslist didn't have any for re-sale. I'm glad we got ours when we did.

Amazingly though (or maybe not), I noticed neither paper decided to review this sold-out show.