Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
Fillmore Miami, Miami Beach
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Last night, Miami witnessed a bright glimmer of hope, a true freedom fighter in the revolution against the evil Auto-Tuned empire that currently governs the pop music world. Drake, Keri Hilson, and Rihanna take note, Sharon Jones and her Dap-King militia are on the war path, armed with (gasp) real instruments, and a stage show that not only has the bite to back up the formidable bark of their albums, it goes right for the throat.
Currently on tour in support of her fourth full-length, I Learned The Hard Way, Jones brought a bit of the mid-'60s to South Beach. Generally speaking, "retro" artists overshoot the mark in attempts at authenticity. It often becomes a schtick of sorts, rather than an honest expression of a genre. Well into her 50s, Jones defines authentic, and absolutely embodies the soul genre. Together with the nine-piece Dap-Kings and the 2 Dap-Ettes, Jones' performance was a time machine transporting the entire room back to an era when singers had to sing, musicians had to play, and what they looked like was still an afterthought to what they sounded like.
Taking the stage at 9 p.m., Binky Griptite played the role of MC in addition to that of guitarist and gave a lengthy verbal introduction to the Dap-Kings Soul Review. This was more than musicians playing their songs, this was a proper show. The Kings kicked off the set with a high energy version of the laid-back instrumental "The Reason." The impact of a nine-piece band firing on all cylinders is something that is felt as much as it is heard. Decked out in era-correct garb, the Dap-Kings sold the image as well as their playing sold the songs, without looking as though they were in costume.
Following the first song, the band brought each of the Dap-Ettes out for their feature numbers, a generous gift to these young women from a woman who has had her share of music industry disappointments. Finally, after three songs, via an incredibly well-rehearsed and intricate web of segue pieces and verbal introductions, the build-up was complete and Jones finally made it to the stage. The band was warmed up, and everyone in the criminally under capacity room was moving in one form or another, many involuntarily.
Sharon was absolutely working for her meal on that stage, and you could tell within the first few notes that she had something to prove. This is a woman who has been kicked around by the music industry for more than a few years, and has finally seen herself delivered to her rightful place at center stage. Determined to keep her roost, the anti-pop star had more energy and personality than any woman in her 50s should have, and was in a class completely unto herself. Her singing was perfect, she moved through the whole set, stalking the stage like it was her last time up there, the Dap-Kings feeding off of her energy the entire time.
This band was so unbelievably in sync with each other that I spent the first five songs speculating as to whether or not they were actually playing. It is a rare occasion to see a band recreate the sounds from their records as closely as the Dap-Kings did. They played for two hours straight, burning through a well-balanced set of songs from both their back catalog and the new release. The horn section ripped its way through the stabs and swells of songs like "The Game Gets Old" and "100 Days, 100 Nights." Bass player and band director Bosco Mann spent the night behind his signature sunglasses, paying the ultimate homage to Funk Brother James Jamerson with his playing, the rest of the band utilizing an uncanny ability to play as one over his rock-solid foundation.
It was an inspiring performance and by the end of the night, 80 percent of the room was openly dancing to the infectious grooves coming from the stage. At several points in the show, Sharon brought up groups of girls to dance on stage with her, or a male audience member to serenade. The overall vibe was that of a woman having the time of her life, and it really did emanate unto everyone in the room. This was more than just a concert, it really was a show. You were in the capable hands of someone who had studied the book on soul music, a true student of her home town hero James Brown, proven by her encore, a firey rendition of "It's A Man's World."