By Bob Adamek
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings took the stately old National Theater in Richmond, Virginia by storm. By storm I mean the tornado of energy that is Sharon Jones. When Jones hits the stage she may remind you of a cross between Tina Turner and Aretha Franklin, or perhaps a female James Brown. By the end of the show you will think there is no one like Sharon Jones.
On this night the Dap-Kings were preceded by Augusta Georgia’s own, Greg Hester. An act deeply influenced by fellow Augusta native, James Brown. Hester, with James Brown side man Keith Jenkins on guitar, laid down some heavy southern soul during a 40 minute set supporting Hester’s 2009 release Hustlers, Killers & Thieves. It was a solid set by the bass/guitar/drums/vocals quartet.
The National was primed for the headliners by Hester’s set and an outstanding DJ mix provided by a DJ from Soulpower.info. As is customary of the main act’s throwback, soul review style, the Dap-Kings took the stage for two songs with deep pocket grooves without Sharon Jones. The vocals were provided by the band’s MC, guitarist Binky Griptite. The Dap-Kings play the kind of funk that was king from the mid 1960’s to the mid 1970’s with a feel that makes you think they invented it themselves. A drummer, percussionist, two guitarists, trumpet, tenor and baritone sax are all in the very capable hands of band leader and bassist Bosco Mann. The band never stops it’s two step, church choir, swaying back and forth, making the stage seem alive.
Then Sharon Jones comes racing out with an adrenaline filled rush that seems to grab everyone in the theater by the chest. The band is set up in a large semi-circle, giving Jones a wide and necessary birth to do her best work. She simply never stops moving, dancing and abusing her 4″ heels as if she were wearing Chuck Taylors. She bounces around the stage for an hour and a half as if she were 19 years old, not the 53 she claims to be.
Over the course of the night Jones invites different audience members up on stage with her. First she invited a college age guy to come up so that she could croon to him, with a hand caressing his cheek. Next it was a man in his 30’s who provided an affectionate dance partner for another song. Then she had a slew of women of all shapes and sizes on stage with her to celebrate women and dance, giving each one the chance to get her moments of adulation from the screaming, frenzied crowd.
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings leave concert goers walking out shaking their heads, wondering how she can have that much energy, how can a band play that grindy kind of funk in the pocket for that long, and when are they coming back. To top it off, Jones came out to the lobby to do a meet and greet, to pose for photos with her beaming smile, and press the flesh. Seeing this act may be some of the best money you’ll ever spend.