Looking Back: An Evening With Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings

1 06 2011

Victoria is a city that thrives on nostalgia.  From the Victorian-era houses which line our narrow streets to the horse-drawn carriages that trot around downtown, we are a people who operate in the past and the present simultaneously.  Those fortunate enough to claim a seat at the sold out Alix Gooldin Hall on Saturday night were thrown back to a more recent and funkier era, however, as Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings transported us all to mid-sixties Detroit with a potent breed of funk and soul.

The Hall was almost dark by the time The Dap Kings took the stage: the light of a dying sun barely had the strength to illuminate the Gooldin’s stained glass and eventually gave way to blue spotlights which crawled up the pipes of the Gooldin’s ancient organ.  Led by bass player Bosco Mann, the band immediately set to work showcasing an unparallel precision and style while warming the room in a fashion reminiscent of a 1960’s Soul Revue.

Dap King guitarist Binky Griptite doubled as master of ceremonies for the evening, and instructed security to allow the crowd to abandon their wooden pews for a more dance-friendly space in front of the stage.  He then introduced the backing singers, aptly called “The Dapettes”, who each gave a performance worthy of a lead singer.  Griptite’s eloquent introduction continued, guiding the eleven piece band through a medley of hit songs we could expect to hear throughout the evening until, finally, he introduced the evening’s brightest star, Sharon Jones.

At fifty five years of age, Sharon Jones shows no signs of slowing down.  She hit the stage dancing, and seemed to pick up momentum as the show went on, only stopping momentarily to remove her high heeled shoes.  Jones paced the stage frantically while belting out songs from all four of the band’s albums, most notably 2010’s I Learned the Hard Way, staring down those brave enough to stand at her bare feet and even inviting a few lucky fans to the stage to dance alongside her or be a temporary muse for a slower song.

A vocalist in the tradition of Etta James, Bettye Lavette, and Irma Thomas, Jones is a most dynamic singer.  She can switch from a wail to a falsetto without missing a beat, and while she divulged that she picked up a cold during a rainy outdoor concert the previous evening in Vancouver, her vocals and dance moves (which included the Boogaloo, the Tighten Up and the Swim only to name a few) were spot on; even those closest to the stage struggled to keep up to Jones’ staggering, sweaty pace.

Even though the band played for over two hours, the evening seemed all too short.  After an amazing rendition of “100 Days, 100 Nights”, Jones’ and co. left the stage, only to be called back for an equally impressive encore.  And for a brief moment, our sleepy little town was awakened by some genuine sixties soul.

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