Photos By Chris Chen, Words By Jeb Gavin
Hypothetically- in the event we somehow manage to master time travel (I’m talking paradox free travel backwards through time,) do you think Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings would play my Bar Mitzvah? I’m only half joking here, as her two night stand at the Lincoln Theatre was everything you could hope for in a live show.
I know in the past I’ve been critical of the Lincoln Theatre as a venue for more ebullient acts. The seats make it hard to get up and dance, and for everyone to see everything going on on stage. Doesn’t matter. Likewise I’ve expressed concerns about soul music quickly going the way of the dinosaur as acts age and are replaced by at times mediocre bands cribbing soul without, uh, soul. Neither of these were problems Tuesday night. The audience, while at first hesitant, leaped to their feet when prompted and remained standing the whole show.
Opener Valerie June was adorable and commanding. She reminds me of a modern country Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Even before Sharon Jones came out, the Dap-Kings backed up their Dapettes, the backup singers Saundra Williams and Starr Duncan who just cut their own 45.
Having seen this act before, I was worried Ms. Jones had lost a step, given the (relatively) slow opening. The act has been on hiatus for months while she underwent chemotherapy treatment. It’s possible the audience, fearful she might’ve lost a step, was reticent at first. They shook that off fast enough. At one point, just after dancing a man thirty years her junior off the stage, she explained what had happened. Per her mid-song monologue, “the doctor said ‘woooooo’,” which apparently meant she had stage two pancreatic cancer. Skipping to the bottom of the page, she is now in remission. Even cancer couldn’t keep her off the stage. Little Richard must be one hell of an oncologist.
With the exception of her describing her illness and treatment, no further mention was made. Given the energy of the show, the renewed vigor matching if not exceeding her performances of years past, it was as though she never missed a step. The vocal acrobatics of “100 Days” when charted would look like the Ozark mountains in profile. Her “When You Love Me” which opened with a clever nod to Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger” managed to slow things down without losing one bit of energy.
The show ended with a dance tutorial, as though she hadn’t already danced for an hour and a half straight. The audience learned, or at least saw the pony, the jerk, the funky chicken, the mashed potato, and a half dozen others, including the percussionist dancing the boogaloo while tapping out a break on his conga drums and bongos. Sharon left briefly while the Dap-Kings pulled an old Hank Ballard number out of their back pocket, only to launch into her encore, the funkiest ever version of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.” Sharon Jones is back, somehow exerting maximum effort on stage effortlessly.