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Concert Review:: Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings at Newport Music Hall

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The word “energy” is defined by as “the capacity for vigorous activity; available power” of which the human form, is known as Ms. Sharon Jones.  Thursday night at the Newport Music Hall, a grimy no place to sit down, sticky floored, don’t turn on the lights or you will be sorry, great place to see a show, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings put on a performance to be remembered.


I was curious to see what kind of crowd would be attracted to come to this venue to see SJDK as old school soul is not the typical college kid draw and with the Lincoln Theater being the more obvious choice, however, at the end of the evening, I learned a valuable lesson.  This combination of performer and stage location was an experiment gone well, kind of like collards and hot sauce - spicy yet covertly good for you.  The floor was covered but not packed, probably half full because of the closed off balcony and the attendees ran the gamut - young suburban looking teenagers, college hippie looks and hipsters, college professors and their wives and folks looking like they just attended Sunday service complete with cufflinks and fancy lace hair accoutrements.  There could not have been a more confused atmosphere floating through the air. 

At around 9:15, the band filed on stage with a three piece horn set on the left, a bass player in the back, a percussionist and drummer in the center, on the right, a rhythm guitarist and the master of ceremonies, Binky Griptite on his fantastic hollow body Gibson L-4 guitar.  Dressed smartly in suits and ties, it was clear the Dap Kings meant business.  Starting out with a song of his own, Binky warmed up the crowd and then moved on to introduce the two Dap-ettes, Saundra Williams and Starr Duncan, each of whom individually delivered a taste of what was to come.  After a brief medley of the SJDK hits, and with no further ado, Binky presented the one and only Ms. Sharon Jones.

Bedecked in a pink sparkly flapper style mini-dress that never stopped moving, Sharon Jones hit the stage.  While only tiny in stature, stage presence, pure talent and unadulterated joy of performing oozed out of her every pore and by the end of the evening, she filled even the far corners of the empty balcony.  It seemed that with the diversity of the crowd, at first, everyone didn’t quite know what to do with themselves and how to properly digest this lesson in pure soul.  Perhaps used to this dichotomy of followers, Sharon was the perfect teacher, gentle, patient, coaxing, cajoling, bringing members of the audience up on stage to show everyone, it was okay to *not* be able to dance.  It was okay to *not* know how to do, even the bump.  It was okay to just be mesmerized by her and learn and move with however the moment felt as she showed us all the way to enjoy her sweet mixture of gospel and rhythm and blues.

For almost two solid hours, Sharon grooved through all of her hits and told stories to an apt audience, giving every person in the place a little piece of funk to take home with them before ending the night with her notable “100 days, 100 nights”.  Of course she had to come back to the stage for a single song encore of the appropriate James Brown classic “It’s a Man’s World” because you see, modern soul music would be nothing, nothing without THIS woman, Sharon Jones.

Personal observations:

  • Super polite crowd.  The vibe was a bit bewildered at first, but the smiles were non stop at the end of the evening.
  • Big drunk seeming guy at the front threatened to be super annoying with the “YEAH” scream every 2 seconds but it was fantastic how that only lasted for one song and then he just settled in with the rest of us. Well played big drunk seeming guy.
  • The second person that Sharon pulled up on stage was a young hippie looking kid with a headband on that, although could not dance to save his life, surprisingly represented properly by knowing all of the words to “Be Easy”.  Nicely done!
  • When Sharon pulled up a good dozen women from the audience onto the stage, one of them had a camera that she proceeded to put right in Sharon’s face. Really?  Really?
  • Highlight for me was when it was just Binky and Sharon on stage singing “Mama Don’t Like My Man”.  Her voice is so clear, so full of soul, Binky’s guitar is so sweet, so smooth…. Thank you Sharon, for being so brave as to quit your corrections officer career at the young age of 41 and taking the chance to share your love of soul and funk with us.  The world is a better place because of it.

Written by: Kimmy Yo

Photos courtesy of MBMR

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