Sharon Jones at the State Theater, 5/17/11
May 17, 2011
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
Sharon Jones has her own brand of caffeine that no one else knows about--it's so powerful that it's probably illegal, or at least government-moderated. That's the only way to explain her performance last night at the State Theater, so infused with a manic artistic energy that the entire audience was on its feet within seconds of the Queen of Funk strutting out on stage.
Jones is a natural-born performer, and at 55 years old (as if you could ever tell--her endless drive envies a college kid on Adderall), she isn't turning new tricks. Quite the opposite--Jones is the unequivocal leader in the funk/soul revival. She sounds as though she's just jumped out of a fuzzy black-and-white 1960's TV program, and with her 8-piece backing band the Dap-Kings and a pair of back-up vocalists (the "Dapettes"), Jones puts on quite a show, to say the least.
Clad in a multi-fringed mini-dress that was designed specifically for shimmying, Jones was like a female version of the late, great James Brown--shaking it all over the stage, and with great pleasure. She took the time to instruct the audience on some classic moves a la the Godfather of Soul, including "The Funky Chicken" and "The Camel Walk". During the song "Give It Back", Jones pulled up an audience member on stage to groove it out with her--a college-aged young man, to whom she sang with gleaming eyes, "If I give you my love, are you gonna give it back?"
When Jones led into the song "Mama Don't Like My Man", that performer's soul was peppered with the expertise of a comedienne who knows how to play a crowd. "I brought home this man, and she didn't like him... so thought I'd sing to her," Jones said, never losing the beat the Dap-Kings threw down. "They say music soothes the beast, and I ain't callin' my mama no beast," smiled Jones gleefully, "but I had to soothe her."
There were too many high points of the night to recount them all, but at the top of the list was when Jones brought out the song "Longer and Stronger". "This song was written for me on my 50th birthday," boomed Jones, who just never stopped moving from one side of the stage to the other. "That was 5 years ago, and I want you to listen to it, because it tells my story, you know." The crowd erupted in enthusiasm--partly, I'm sure, because some in the audience didn't realize her age, or had forgotten it in the course of all that hip-rotating. All the same, when Jones boomed through the lyric "A woman like me can stand the test of time", nothing could have been more true. Here, indeed, is to another fifty years of Ms. Jones.
Critic's Bias: I dare you to find one good reason not to appreciate, enjoy, be moved by, or otherwise love the music of Sharon Jones.
The Crowd: Mixed, comfortable, and totally enthralled, even considering a Tuesday night and the fact that the State Theater is not made for a dancing crowd.
Overheard in the Crowd: "There's gotta be some other word for her," said someone in the row behind me. "Awesome isn't enough."
Random Notebook Dump: Opening band Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears should not go unmentioned here--they are equal parts funk and bluesy Motown, and they were a perfect fit for the bill.
Set list: Note that this is only partial, because Jones had a way of transforming her songs into medleys that bled into one another...
If You Call
Without a Heart
Give It Back
When I Come Home
Longer and Stronger
She Ain't A Child No More
When You Love Me
I Learned The Hard Way
Mama Don't Like My Man
Better Things To Do
Work It Out
100 Days, 100 Nights