By: Jim Welte
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings :: 01.28.09 :: The Warfield :: San Francisco, CA
Much like the man who just took the White House, Sharon Jones can work a crowd. The pint-sized soul dynamo came to The Warfield with the world's tightest living funk band, The Dap-Kings, and like a true orator-in-chief, she had a packed house hanging on her every word. With her eight-piece backing band laying down thick, early Stax-era grooves, Jones cajoled and chastised, praised and preached, whipping her congregation into a frenzy with ease.
While the music harkened back to the 1960s, the performance was a perfect capsule for the Internet-fueled, look-at-me generation. Throughout the night, Jones invited fans onstage, sometimes individually, others in groups. There was the guy who seemed dressed to provide the answer to the night's "Where's Waldo?" contest, and the lanky, pony-tailed guy who made up for his lack of rhythm with plenty of spirit. There was the nattily dressed gentleman who Jones booted off the stage for dancing too slow, only to be invited back later to fit perfectly with a ballad. ("He was better for that tune ya'll. I call the shots here," she said.)
And then there was 12-year-old Andrew, a bright-eyed, limber-armed dancer who received a tutorial on the birds and the bees from a 52-year-old woman with a capital W, right in front of his parents. "Don't worry, I'll keep it clean ya'll," Jones promised. As she launched into the song "Be Easy," she told Andrew that when the time comes for him to become a man, "Don't be scurred. You be easy, and some young girl will be easy, too." The crowd roared. It's quite likely that the huge grin young Andrew wore as he left the stage has not yet abated.
The band drew from each of its three albums together, but leaned heavily on 100 Days, 100 Nights, the August 2007 release that, coupled with the Dap-Kings' backing of Amy Winehouse, sent the group into the stratosphere. The band's last non-festival show in the Bay Area was at 685-capacity Bimbo's 365 Club, while the Warfield tops out at 2200.
"Keep on Looking," with its propulsive guitar and horn stabs, served as the platform for instrumental solos, a showcase for a band that has a remarkable output in recent years. In addition to projects with Jones and Winehouse, the Dap-Kings played on the bulk of the tracks for producer Mark Ronson's 2007 album, Version, as well as Make the Road by Walking, an instrumental soul/funk album from fellow Dap-King Tommy Brenneck's Menahan Street Band, featuring members of the Budos Band, El Michels Affair and Antibalas.
Sharon Jones by Kelly Jo Garner|
But, two tracks truly captured what's going on today. The band closed out the blistering two-hour set with "Answer Me," a pew-shaking gospel track from 100 Days. Minutes earlier, the group's cover of Sam Cooke's 1963 classic "A Change Is Gonna Come" was as stirring rendition of the song as you'll ever hear, with Jones pouring herself into the lyrics. Everyone clearly had President Barack Obama on the brain, but Jones could have equally been reflecting on her own life as a former correctional officer at Rikers Island that's climbed to music's mountaintop.
Jones was a force throughout, shimmying, stomping and shrieking like her fellow Augusta, GA native, the late Godfather of Soul, James Brown. Like her idol, Jones is one of the hardest working women in show business, having toured almost incessantly since the late 2007 release of 100 Days. She paid a tribute to Brown by taking the crowd through a series of dances he made famous, from the Mash Potato and the Tighten Up to the Boogaloo and The Pony. During the encore, she danced her way through a lesson into her ancestry, moving through West African and Native American steps with gusto.
Jones summed up the night herself, counting her blessings and noting that some great bands have lousy singers, while talented singers frequently front rotten bands. "But we have the whole package," she said.
JamBase | Solid Ground
Go See Live Music!