Monday, September 20, 2010

Review + Setlist: Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings and Orgone Find the Soul Sweet Spot at the Pageant, September 19

Posted By on Mon, Sep 20, 2010 at 1:59 AM

click to enlarge Sharon Jones! - ANNIE ZALESKI
  • Annie Zaleski
  • Sharon Jones!

The tragedy of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings: Only once can you see them for the first time. Judging by a show of hands last night at the Pageant, many in attendance were having their initial experience with the soul dynamo and her crack backing band. No doubt their minds were blown - after all, it's an overwhelming, emotional thing seeing Jones in person. She shimmies and shakes like she's dancing atop a bed of hot coals; the funky chicken, the mashed potato, the train and "riding the pony" are a part of her dancing repertoire during an early song. Her voice, so emotive and honeyed on record, draws from the audience's energy and transforms into a primal soul-banshee howl. The stoic Dap-Kings - eight strong onstage - unleash their horn, guitar, bass, sax and drums parts with wicked, devastating precision.

Last night's setlist focused mostly on this year's I Learned the Hard Way. A timeless pastiche of Motown, Stax and Philly soul, the newer songs felt right at home next to older catalog songs such as "100 Days, 100 Nights" and the band's take on Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land." The Way album-closer "Mama Don't Like My Man," introduced as an homage to Sam Cooke, was a highlight. Jones and the Dap-Kings' two female backup singers sang their harmonies a cappella, as guitarist Binky Griptite plucked out an understated melody. The dance-fomenting strut "Better Things" was another standout; its high-stepping funk was propulsive and empowering.

Anyone who caught Jones and the Dap-Kings at the Duck Room in 2008 -- or their appearance at the Pageant later that same year -- knows that anything can happen at their shows. Tonight's surprise was the appearance from a quartet of kids from Northbrook, Illinois, who play in a band called Northbrook Garage. Jones traded lyrics with impressive vocalist Elenna Sindler on "She Ain't a Child No More" and then ordered the Dap-Kings to surrender drums, bass and guitar to the rest of the band so they could perform the song. "The babies are bringing back soul! Ain't that something," Jones exclaimed after the rousing performance.

click to enlarge More Sharon Jones! - ANNIE ZALESKI
  • Annie Zaleski
  • More Sharon Jones!

She was just as pleased when a dude jumped onstage and exhibited some show choir/musical theater/gangly-drunk smooth moves with Jones on "I Learned the Hard Way." (Obviously tickled by his performance, Jones giggled and imitated his moves several times after the song.) She brought up a gaggle of women during "How Do I Let a Good Man Down?" - and since it was near the end of the show, a few were obviously extremely inebriated. One barely rhythmic dancer didn't want to leave the stage; another lady took great pleasure in shaking her booty in the general direction of the crowd for the duration. (Everybody was having fun, however.)

These rituals are a staple of a Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings show. But they never feel like shtick - and they don't feel stale or perfunctory. Credit Jones' bottomless energy and infectious stage persona. She's the type of performer who finds the silver lining in any situation and seems completely ecstatic to be onstage sharing music with other people. (In fact, near the start of the show, she said, "Every night is an adventure for me," and later she gave Northbrook Garage some advice about how to win over an audience: "Make 'em feel like a part of you.") She only sat down once: to take off her heels so she could be freer to let loose and headbang, stomp, run in place, high-step in a mad display of fancy footwork. And this was 90 minutes into the show.

click to enlarge The Dap-Kings from afar. - ANNIE ZALESKI
  • Annie Zaleski
  • The Dap-Kings from afar.

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