Jones and the Dap-Kings
MoCA, North Adams, Mass., May 23
We’ve been waiting what, oh, five years or so, for somebody,
anybody, to bring Sharon Jones to town. (Note to local
venues: Duh-uh, people really, really like soul music.)
Getting Ms. Jones and the Dap-Kings for Mass MoCA’s big anniversary
party was a brilliant, inspired choice, and while I can’t
begrudge the museum the $80 ticket (it’s their party and they
can charge what they want to) hopefully the next local gig—which
better be soon, dammit—will be something everybody can afford.
The Hunter Center was packed with a couple of generations
of shined-up socialites, Important People (Hey! There’s Michael
Dukakis gettin’ his jammy on! Fo-shizzle, Gov, and rock on,
Bro!) and the-hell-with-my-car-payment artsy types, all yellin’,
dancin’, and checkin’ each other out. It was pretty surreal,
which in the context of Mass MoCA is saying something.
Which brings us to Ms. Jones. Holy moly! I have never, ever
seen anyone work a stage or a crowd harder, or better. She’s
a tiny lady, and she prowled, she owned the stage, dancing
like a primal dream, engaging and including the crowd, while
yelping, howling, and testifying like this was the Apollo
in 1961 and everything was possible. She was yanking people
onto the stage, almost to the point of distraction. A beaming
blind guy, very big people, very little people, a line of
young lovelies, shimmying and singing the choruses—and a young
man jumped onstage, grabbed one of the lovelies, got down
on one knee (as the band vamped quietly) and proposed. Ms.
Lovely grabbed the mike and said yes, the band cranked it,
Sharon hugged everybody. Next song. Unh! Heh! Good God!
The legendary Dap-Kings band (three horns, bass, guitar, drums,
percussionist) were dead-on, perhaps a little understated.
I’m tempted to say they’re too Brooklyn hipster by half, but
I won’t. I mean, they’re the friggin’ legendary Dap-Kings
band, they made Amy Winehouse sound talented fer chrissakes,
and look at everything else they’ve done in the last 10 years.
All due to respect to Justin Timberlake (or not), these are
the folks who brought sexy back. But dudes, you’ve gotta have
one of the best gigs in the world—it’s OK to show us you’re
From James to Otis to the beginnings of Sly, this was a greezy
textbook of sweaty soul. The only thing lacking was the sound
quality, which was distant and not particularly lively. It
was clear enough, though, and it may well have been as good
as it could possibly get in the big, gymnasium-like room.
But this stuff should shake your pant leg, blow your hair
back, and hijack your heartbeat.