Last night, a bunch of friends and I caught Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings at the swank Nokia Theater in Times Square. Sharon and the band played a mix of their last two albums, several awesome new songs that they are still working on, as well as amazing covers of Sam Cooke and Gladys Night numbers — "A Change is Gonna Come"! It was the best concert of theirs that I've seen so far.
The opening act, Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens, were tremendous, laying down soulful and energetic spirituals that had us dancing and singing along. It was like the funkiest gospel church service you ever went to with 600 other NYC hipsters.
Then the Dap Kings came on in full force with three backup singers, full horn section, timpani, and five strings players. Holy crap they laid down a powerful sound in that theater!
But of course the true force to be reckoned with was Ms. Sharon Jones herself. She strutted on stage in a shimmery red dress and shiny silver heels — that that she later discarded because they were getting in the way of her dancing. Sharon gave us an incredible performance lasting nearly two hours straight. Not bad for a woman soon to be 54.
For those who follow these things, no, I did not catch lightning thrice. I was not dancing on stage this time around (unlike the Apollo and Central Park Summerstage). I was a bit too far back from the front of the stage to catch Sharon's eye, hidden behind some very tall people. Whatever. It doesn't diminish the experience at all. And we got to enjoy seeing Sharon lay down the law on a couple of crazy drunk women who wrangled their way onto stage even when she didn't call on them. Heaven protect anyone who tries to upstage Ms. Jones.
It's great to see how much of a family the Daptones Records folks are. A friend of mine tells me that a member of the Sugarman Three, guitarist Coleman Mellet, died on the Buffalo plane crash last week, which reportedly depressed everyone in the Daptones family.
While Sharon Jones was clearly the headliner, the signage behind the stage and on graphics on the tee-shirts in the lobby all said "SJDK" : Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. The power of the music comes from the ensemble effort of everyone playing their hearts out, from Anda on baritone sax (whose birthday it was) to Binky Griptite on guitar (the awesomest band name ever), to Jack on percussion.
And despite their somewhat surprising international fame, they are still remarkably humble. Gabe "Bosco," the producer of Daptone Records, and Binky wandered around the lobby chatting with people after the show. Sharon Jones hung out near the gift shop signing stuff, kissing, chatting and taking photos with every single person who wanted to see her up close. What kind of diva does that?
I guess it's because Sharon always reminds us of where she comes from and how hard it was to get where she is. From a struggling singer in her twenties who the record labels told was "too black, too fat and too short" to headlining on Times Square. Now in her fifties, to be doing what she knew God had annointed her to do, in her words, she can only be grateful.
So when Sharon sings "answer me, Sweet Jesus," we all know what the answer was.
[Lead photo by Arambulo. Body photo by Swifty.]