Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings

Big Daddy Kane was in North Carolina to see the soul sensation Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings at Cat's Cradle in Carrboro.  The place was packed.  About half the crowd could remember soul--real soul music, from back in the 1960s--the music of Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, James Brown, Archie Dell, Aretha Franklin--before funk, which is to say, then, before disco and before hip-hop.  The rest were college students happily tuning into the latest retro thing.

The opening act, LA band Fitz and the Tantrums, killed, particularly on the upbeat numbers like "Breakin' the Chains of Love" and "Dear Mr. President."  In her closing number--the most familiar of her hits "100 Days, 100 Nights"--Ms. Jones invited FatT lead singer Noelle Scaggs to share the song and spotlight with her--it was a fantastic moment between two incredible talents.

And Jones used the moment to extol the virtues of singing with a live band--a tightly knit and astounding one at that, with two backup singers, a three-man horn section, drummer, bongo player, keyboardist, and three (I think) guitarists--over fronting to pre-recorded studio tracks--as the band allows her just the sort of spontaneity she exhibited over and over throughout the evening--and she lit up the small stage for almost two hours.  The lady is goddamned 54 years old, and she shimmied, boogalooed, tightened-up, mashed-potatoed, and rode the pony with hardly a moment taken to breathe.

Jones sang her best stuff--fervent anthems and R&B, songs from her last two albums like "I Learned the Hard Way," "Money," "She Aint a Child No More," "Mama Don't Like My Man," and "Nobody's Baby."  Fun party songs and the blues--but every bit of it suffused with a consciousness of where America is today--no less than Dylan did in the '60s and Springsteen and Run-DMC in the '80s.  But a highlight for me was her soulful rendition of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land"--particularly a verse I had never paid any attention to until tonight--
As I was walkin - I saw a sign there
And that sign said - No tres-passin
But on the other side - It didn't say nuthin
Now that side was made for you and me!
The concert was an Event.  A celebration of sheer human energy and heart in the face of a world that is unfair, unjust, unkind, and unloving.  I feel all wound up and elated--with no place to put it.

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