18 February 2008

Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings @ the Beacon Theater - 15 February 2008

One lucky day back in October I caught a portion of the Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings performance at the Virgin Megastore in Union Square. Though I was brand new to the Dap King phenomenon, though the venue did the band no justice and I had to be someplace else that day/left midway through their set, a lot stuck with me about the performance. Even in the midst of barcode beeps and unbridled commerce the pure greatness of Sharon & the Dap Kings shined through. I left wondering what kind of show this band might deliver at a proper venue filled with more than a few shopping commuters; yet, for no good reason, I missed their performance at The Apollo Theatre a few days later and cursed my idiocy. Thankfully, I'm wise enough not to make the same mistake twice.

On the 15th of February, 2008, New York's Beacon Theater played host to a Daptone Super Soul Review: a sold out evening of rhythm and blues, soul and funk, featuring The Budos Band, the Bushwick Philharmonic, The DansettesThe Sweet Divines, a trio of white boy audience members dancing poorly on stage, Sharon Jones, and (of course) The Dap Kings. Though the audience was slam-packed full of many people who seemingly came across the band by asking the clerk at their local Barnes & Noble music section what music was currently playing in the store (aka, more of the same shopping commuter types that were at the Virgin Megastore show - aka, lots of Johnny-come-lately folks (myself included), and lots of stiff-ass suburban-looking frappuccino drinkers instead of the hard-core fan types I'd hoped for), the evening would turn out to be one of the more memorable concerts I've ever been to in my life.

After a solid opening set from The Budos Band, the Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings portion of the evening got started with The Dap Kings (recently receiving tons more attention as a result of their standout work backing Amy Winehouse) taking to the stage without Sharon to warm up the audience for a few songs. The musical foreplay worked like a charm - by the time Sharon Jones finally took to the stage the audience was collectively quivering with anticipation, wide to receive whatever funky soul goodness that might be thrown our way. It came, at first, in the form of 2004's little-known gem "Genuine (parts 1 & 2)". Wasting no time, mid-song, Sharon beckoned to the crowd "I need me a man up here on stage" as she pulled the biggest, whitest, baseball hat wearing, frat boy guy she could find out of the audience and onto the stage with her. He "danced" with her and I considered myself lucky to be seated in the balcony: no chance of me making a fool of myself on this night.

The show continued with a stompingly strutty version of "Nobody's Baby". Sharon did her best to work through her new shoe blues (complaining aloud that her shoes weren't yet broken in before ditching them to dance and strut around barefoot) as the band behind her seamlessly, and perfectly, handled each note and personnel change. More than a few times I wondered to myself if The Dap Kings (et al.) weren't perhaps the best backing band on the planet. Working in their favor in this regard was the fact that the Beacon's sound was literally perfect. This allowed the band to dominate the evening from the shadows just exactly as they should have and added to the intangible "we're seeing something very special" feeling that was in the air all night.

Sharon and crew worked through "How Do I Let A Good Man Down?" and "You're Gonna Get It" before she again found herself searching for a man from the audience to join her on stage for "How Long Do I Have To Wait For You?" - what she found was another hopeless white guy (pictured above), this one even more willing to shake it than the last one. Was it white boy day? I didn't realize it was white boy day! Suddenly, a few whiskeys into my evening, I found myself wishing that I was down on the floor with a chance to be the next goof grooving with Sharon. Did anybody in the building have any idea how much my legs yearned to burn?! For every remaining moment of this concert I had tiny cartoon hearts floating above my head...

I believe the next song was "What If We All Stopped Paying Taxes" which then gave way to Sharon's cover of "This Land Is Your Land". By this point, nearly every stiff audience member in the balcony with me was up out of their seats and dancing. The floor bounced, a couple next to me nearly made a baby as they danced/felt each other up in the aisle, and Sharon decided to give three ladies a shot at dancing with her on stage during "Tell Me".

From "Once I Had A Good Man" into "What Have You Done For Me Lately?" and "Let Them Knock" Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings gave a clinic on the art of the concert, on modern soul music, and on what it means to be a woman in control. "Let them knock up on my door until their hands are black and blue, I'm not answering for no one until my man and I are through" Sharon sang. I swooned. The band didn't seem to notice, however, as they wasted no time flowing directly into a cover of Marva Whitney's "What Do I Have To Do To Prove My Love To You?" before closing out their set with "Humble Me" and the crowd favorite "100 Days, 100 Nights".

After all of this, after nearly two hours of Daptone Super Soul Review goodness, what did the band have left in the tank for an encore? Why, Sharon on piano for "Answer Me" and a faithfully spot-on cover of the James Brown classic "This Is A Man's World", naturally. But clearly, on this night, it was Sharon's world.

It struck me late in the course of the concert that, though it was a real shame to have taken so many years for her to finally find her audience, Sharon couldn't very well have reached so many people at any other time. Like a fine wine uncorked at the perfect moment, Sharon Jones (turning 52 in May) & the Dap Kings delivered the kind of performance that positively wowed all 2,800 people in attendance and converted even the least malleable of old white people into dancing soul freaks. We were but putty in the hands of a group of master craftsmen/women; and though I've not seen every concert of 2008, I submit that there's been no finer concert in all of New York City so far this year. There's just no way any other evening anywhere else was "better" than the concert I saw last Friday night at the Beacon Theater. I can't wait until the next time - I'll be on the floor.

"100 Days, 100 Nights"

"How Long Do I Have To Wait For You?" (live from this show)

Visit Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings on MySpace.

Also there: BrooklynVegan | Intelligent Rectum | Fresh Bread | The Music Slut

*above photos from HERE and HERE.