The resurgence of soul music that emulates that of its 1960s predecessors can be frequently found with several stellar standout acts. From the wailing, impassioned Charles Bradley, to the emotional and funky sounds from Lee Fields & The Expressions, to the toe-tapping, energized rhythms from Raphael Saadiq, we have many options for quality soul music that is current and notable. However, there are few groups that are able to make us literally feel like we are in another decade. The possessors of this special gift present us with music that is indistinguishable from the style which they are emulating, as they are seemingly one in the same.
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings are this kind of special soul outfit. They are able to make us feel like we have taken a ride in a time machine as we listen to them, featuring a seamless funk backing and Jones’s perfect vocals, akin to honey dripping from a spoon, slow and steady and never losing its sweetness. They go to great lengths to make their music and their live performances as exact and accurate as possible, however, when seeing them perform, it suddenly appears effortless.
As “Strangers In The Night” began to play and the lights dimmed, the crowd became elated on Friday evening at the Vic. Looking down from my vantage point, I saw the crowd adorned in a range of different outfits, including a sparkling sequin dress and headpiece, a vintage-looking pantsuit and sunglasses to match, and colored suits. It struck me that Sharon Jones and her Dap-Kings had amassed such a large following, and it’s no secret that this would happen, as they have been recording together for nearly a decade, enough to sell out their show completely.
In true soul fashion, the Dap-Kings played a lengthy intro of fifteen minutes of music, which showcased the two female backup singers that complement Jones’s illustrious vocals. The music was layered yet tight, and each piece of the musical puzzle fit together perfectly. They got the crowd dancing immediately and each band member onstage looked joyful and truly passionate about the music being created.
Sharon then emerged to an uproar of cheers. Donning a busy patterned dress featuring a light blue and silver hue, and shaved head due to her recent battle with cancer, Jones was glowing, radiant as she faced her audience. It was a triumphant moment for her, and we were happy to welcome her back onto the stage. Beginning with “Stranger to My Happiness,” Jones continued the streak of songs off of her new album by following with “You’ll Be Lonely.” I was instantly awestruck by her vocals, which in that space sounded pristine and glorious. Each member of the group throughout the evening was perfectly in sync with one another, vibing off of rhythm changes and shifts with complete ease. It was incredible to watch so many members of a band on stage with perfect synchronicity and literally never skipping a beat.
She proceeded with “Long Time, Wrong Time,” which becomes a sped up, more frenetic version of the original tune. However, the crowd doesn’t mind one bit as Jones emerged as captivating and energized.
The next song, also off of their 2014 release, Give The People What They Want, became the focus and turning point of this show for me. She began to sing “Get Up and Get Out,” before which she told the audience that she would like to sing the song in the style of Tina Turner.
“I just like saying the words…Tina Turner,” Jones stated, as she cracked up while engaging in this banter with the eager crowd. The song begins in an extremely lilting fashion, as the tempo slows down, even more than the original carefree tempo. The tune then began to shift its pace as it sped up enormously, as Jones suddenly kicked off her silver heels to the back of the stage and dances and steps, sweat beginning to glisten on her arms as she literally is running onstage, a sacred union between her and her music, and no one else.
“The reason because I shout, is because I got something to shout about,” Jones declared following her onstage routine, after which she begins a spoken word speech for the crowd. She discusses her battle with cancer, during which she mentions moments of sitting in a hospital bed, and wondering if she would make it through. She mentioned her worry regarding coming back and touring too soon, before she was ready.
“I said to cancer, get up, and get out,” Jones proudly said with gumption as the crowd cheered. It was a moment in which chills formed up my spine – it was an incredible moment of individuals coming together not only to listen to music from a band they respected and revered, but also to celebrate life, and specifically, the life of Sharon Jones. The crowd was overjoyed with her recovery and were delighted to see her back on stage, and she noted that it was the right choice to return at this very moment in time.
After this intimate moment spent delving into Sharon Jones’s personal thoughts, worries, fears, and successes, the concert took on a whole new personal level. Each song became more celebratory than the next and smiles stretched from ear to ear.
Jones then broke from her most recent material to slow the set after an emotional moment with “If You Call.” She then sang empowered ballad “Nobody’s Baby,” and then covered Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” during which she invited several audience members onstage to dance and groove with her and the Dap-Kings throughout the duration of the tune.
Jones & The Dap-Kings migrated back to the material from their newest release almost immediately, with “Retreat!” followed by slower “Making Up And Breaking Up (And Making Up And Breaking Up Over Again)” during which another audience member joined Jones as they serenaded each other onstage. “Money” shortly followed, which led into a dance demonstration through the ages from Jones herself, as she showed us how to do the mashed potato and the twist, among other steps.
Following the dance break, Jones continued the set with “Slow Down, Love” during which another special moment occurred. A member of the crowd stepped onstage and was chatting with Jones as the backing continued. He then took the mic, and yes, there was a marriage proposal, during which he spoke about his fiancee and how their first date had been to a Sharon Jones concert in 2009 (cue audience tears and nonstop clapping). The concert truly emerged as a celebration of life and love, as this couple chose to spend such a happy moment with Sharon Jones’s voice ringing out in the background.
The group continued with “I Learned The Hard Way” and “100 Days, 100 Nights,” two vintage crowd pleasers that longtime fans were yearning for, as she introduced each band member to the crowd. An encore swiftly proceeded, with “This Land Is Your Land,” and the group inviting crowd members onstage yet again, as this time they filled the stage completely and formed a colorful, dancing jumble.
All in all, the concert was refreshing and beautiful. Jones clearly cared about interacting with her fans and showing them the best time possible. After fighting a difficult fight, Jones emerged victorious and positively enamored with life, her music, and the attendees in that room. So much happiness abounded, and it was revitalizing to celebrate with Jones as she made her triumphant and welcomed return.
*Post originally created for Gapers Block.