By Natalya Jones
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Last Thursday night, a soul-music extravaganza took place inside the Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings played to a sold-out crowd and let music lovers know that real soul doesn't have to be retro. The Dap-Kings, a tight group from Brooklyn, have been gaining a heap o' praise lately, mostly because they're on Amy Winehouse's Back to Black album. Although backing up Winehouse spread their name far and wide, the group is most exciting to watch when it's behind Jones, a short, 51-year-old ball of energy with a voice so powerful, she makes Winehouse sound like a novice.
Jones has spent the past 25 years vying for a shot at soul stardom. When she took the stage at the Culture Room, it was clear she appreciates the opportunity to show the world what she's made of.
Miami's Spam-Allstars started the show and had the audience boogalooing to their hot blend of funk and Latin soul. They were a perfect opener; they knew just how to warm up a cold South Florida audience that initially seemed rigid. It didn't take long before a b-boy circle broke out by the stage. Breakdancing combined with Latin funk summoned old-school days in the South Bronx, when b-boys used to top-rock to breaks by Willie Colon and Eddie Palmieri.
When the Dap-Kings took the stage, you could tell these cats put on a show. Eight musicians walked out dressed to the nines, sporting vintage instruments in pristine condition. It's a look designed to mimic the great soul revues of the '60s, like Ike and Tina Turner's and James Brown's. The Dap-Kings have horns, and the brass players have their own dance steps.
The Dap-Kings played two songs and then brought out Jones, which sent the crowd into a frenzy. This was the band's first gig of the new year. Jones had to get in her first dance of '08, she said. Next thing you know, she's doing African dances and Native American dances, her shoes are off, her feet are moving like greased lightning, and she's taken off her earrings too. The show was nonstop; the band never slowed down. It was high-energy soul with lots of sweat. What stood out most about Jones was her willingness to pull people out of the crowd and give them a few minutes to dance onstage: Eight times, she let folks get up and strut their stuff. When Jones and the band jumped into "100 Days, 100 Nights," the title song off their new album, all nine artists locked into a groove tighter than gnat booty. It's shows like this that prove that vintage soul is still kicking.