After more than two years off the stage, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings have been touring heavily this year in celebration of their much anticipated 2014 release: Give the People What They Want. Delayed from its slated 2013 debut, her answer came in action as fans penned love, hope, support, and requests for a healthy return to Ms. Jones' through her pancreatic cancer treatments. Since finding out last August she was in stage two, she has come quite a long way in a short time.
Ending chemotherapy December 31, then hitting the road for TV promotions just four days later, January 4, to kicking off the nationwide live tour on February 6 in NYC at The Beacon, it's clear that Sharon is back and she means business.
During a live daytime performance before their Chicago show at the Vic last Friday, April 11, Sharon & the Dap-Kings performed a handful of songs for WXRT. During her on-stage interview, she rejoiced that, " There is gonna be no relapse, there is gonna be nothing negative. I believe that God kept me here because I have a story to tell. Daptone records is here... and we're the Motown and Stax of today."
Having played forty shows in the last four months, anyone would give allowance if Sharon looked tired, but she look so hella legit, full of energy, and spreading love and light in a blinding ray of hope. So much so, in fact, that two lovebirds even got engaged during the second half of the show on stage! Pretty cute.
Wearing a Cinderella-blue-gown, cute silver heels, and no wig to be seen, she rocked it so hard, and repeatedly called the audience to "Let loose!" She let everyone know that, "I don't twerk' and I don't breakdance,... and right now I'm gonna go back to the 60's. The clean dances. The easy dances." And, she totally DID DO THAT EXACT THING. It was seriously the most showstopping set of old skool dance moves including call-outs and musical changes with the spotlight on Sharon shakin it to her commands of :
DO THA TWIST! Chubby Checker had it!
The MASHED POTATO!
...And many more of the "moves we miss," as she slid into a smooth introduction of the individual band members who make up The Dap-Kings. Numbering 11-12 at different times, including two backup singers, you can just tell the group is a cohesive family built on respect and love. Even as the backup singers got introduced, the horn section standing in front of them left the stage for a moment so the crowd could get a solid view of the backup singers themselves.
After such fanfare and quite the boogie-down by Ms. Jones, it was the perfect placement for a slow, bluesy jam like Get Up and Get Out, off the new album. A call for love, the song was also the perfect placement for the aforementioned engagement. A man proposed to his lady, stating that their first date was at Sharon Jones, and she had surprised him with tickets tonight, so he decided to surprise her, get on stage, and ask her to spend the rest of their lives together. She said yes, and the place went nuts. Sharon said it almost made her cry, then led right into I Learned the Hard Way.
Continuing their high-energy, engaging show, the band welcomed one of their trumpet players back onto stage, returning from his Jimmy Fallon gig, and went into 100 Days, 100 Nights, when the whole place went totally crazy, all over again. This was the song they really wanted.
Sharon & the Dap-Kings gallivanted through the rest of their set, eventually slowing it down with some afrobeat rhythms accompanied by horns. They had really touched all the roots music pretty frequently and quite subtly, even, throughout the entire show. Between Sharon's exit and her encore'd return, one of the guitar players brought up a stage-full of crowd members to dance-party along to Funky Broadway. Thanking The Vic's security for their allowance for fun, the band sent everyone safely back to their seats and welcomed Sharon back out to finalize the evening with a soulful rendition of the familiar American folk song, This Land is Your Land complete with some super funky horns.
All in all the show was beyond impressive. The cohesive fusion of love, soul, funk, blues, high- energy- dance moves, survival inspiration, and reel-feelings-instrument-music is a modern day rarity that I think is really just, really exciting. It gave you that god feeling you get when your neck cracks the right way; a real rush of new balance and proper alignment. As Sharon has said in various interviews:
"I want them to recognize that soul music is here," she says. "(They) said that soul music doesn't exist anymore and the only soul music now is retro -- some young kid trying to imitate someone from back in the day. Well, I'm not imitating anyone from back in the day. I am a soul singer. I'm not imitating anyone, so I'm not retro. You can call (them) retro, but you better not call me or Charles Bradley retro! We've been here."
Here's to telling your story, Sharon. We're glad you're back.