Photo by Tobias Schneider
If they were any tighter, they'd combust.
Those were my first scribbled notes of the night, as the Dap-Kings tore through their opening 30-minute set sans the regal soul diva Sharon Jones. An eight-piece featuring two guitarists (one of whom sings), a bassist, a conguero, two saxophonists, a trumpeter and a nonchalant drummer on a very stripped-down kit, this New York octet animate and dynamite '60s soul and '70s funk with the sort of brio to which James Brown would have to give it up and turn it loose. What they do is not innovative; it's just damned good party music that you feel in your pelvis and root chakra. The crowd was appreciative, but still a bit torpid—maybe because the band was supposed to go on at 7, but didn't begin till 8:30.
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That changed dramatically when Ms. Jones commandeered the stage in a form-fitting white dress. She has some extra baggage, but she flaunts it—and her prodigious vocal and dancing talent—with not an iota of shame in her game. Jones possesses a fiery bravado reminiscent of Tina Turner, bolstered by a James Brown-like showmanship and a desire to involve the audience that goes beyond any other band's I've seen. Seriously, she could make stars out of unknowns on a nightly basis, as she calls up patrons to dance and act as foils for her song subjects. At one point, she had five young women come up at once and each one exhibited hot moves. But the ringer in the bunch was a mutton-chopped white dude who channeled the late JB with lightning-fast kicks, leaps and splits. Jones' own hoofing was wild and energetic; she moved like a woman half of her 51 years. And when Jones announced, “All y'all gonna be my background singers,” she elicited a spirited response.
The well-paced set touched on most of the new 100 Days, 100 Nights album, but the highlight was a song about Jones' two sets of ancestors (West African and Native American). The music—ravishing, ravaging funk-soul fire—became increasingly intense as it went and Jones matched it with her hyperkinetic gyrating. The crowd lost it.
The encore raised the room temperature with scorching covers of the Spinners' “It's a Shame,” James Brown's “There Was a Time” and "It's a Man's Man's Man's World,” and then broke into a medley of classic cuts that allowed Jones to unveil her repertoire of vintage dance moves (the boogaloo, the jerk, the mashed potato, the pony, the funky chicken, etc.). After nearly two hours, SJ and D-K had left it all on the Galaxy's stage, raising the mother and turning this roof out (see, it was so good, I can't even get my clichés straight).
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings' “Let Them Knock” (Live)