IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
By Jeff Elbel For Sun-Times Media April 10, 2014 4:48PM
With recent bands like Fitz and the Tantrums packing halls, and sweat-soaked old-school talent like Charles Bradley on the rise, the soul music revival that began in the late ’90s continues to percolate. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings have been at the vanguard, outlasting dabblers and trend-jumpers by producing impassioned material and electrifying shows since launching from Brooklyn in 2000.
Jones’ ten-piece band the Dap-Kings is a precision-tuned machine, led by musical director Gabriel Roth on bass and emcee Binky Griptite on guitar. In the tradition of classic soul revues, the Dap-Kings warm the crowd with a hot R&B instrumental. Next, the band may perform one of Griptite’s danceable vocal numbers like “Mellomatic Mood,” or feature Dapettes Saundra Williams and Starr Duncan on a song like “Stop.”
Afterward, Griptite announces the star attraction in a manner familiar to anyone who saw a James Brown concert. “I’m talking about one hundred and ten pounds of soul excitement,” Griptite might exclaim, before listing a string of favorite titles from the Dap-Kings’ repertoire. As the energy reaches fever pitch, Griptite calls “Miss! Sharon! Jones!” to the stage, and the room explodes.
Griptite’s epithets ring true. Though short of stature, Jones is a towering force in concert. Church upbringing nurtured roof-raising power within her Gospel-influenced vocals. That force is unleashed during tracks like Roth’s “People Don’t Get What They Deserve” from the band’s newly released album “Give the People What They Want.” Jones also burns scorch marks across any stage, with irrepressible dance moves that would leave Baryshnikov breathless. Yes, Brown’s mashed potato is unmatched, but did he do it in high heels?
That Jones is hoofing and singing so hard while recovering from cancer treatment adds to her indomitable image. New single “Retreat!” recalls the Supremes’ and Four Tops’ best, bursting with self-confidence and willpower. “What a fool you’d be to take me on,” sings Jones. It seems especially appropriate given Jones’ situation, although the album was recorded prior to Jones’ diagnosis and its release delayed until her treatment concluded.
The connection to foundational influences like Brown, The Isley Brothers or Tina Turner is recognizable, but a performance by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings never feels like an imitation. Despite roots in an older sound, the frenzy created by Jones and company during a furious boogaloo like “When I Come Home” or funky “You’ll Be Lonely” is as fresh as it gets.
♦ Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings 8 p.m. Apr. 11, The Vic Theatre, 3145 North Sheffield, (773) 472-0449. Tickets $28; victheatre.com. VIDEO: http://bit.ly/1mBKNz7. SPOTIFY playlist: http://spoti.fi/1lpc5ca