- 18 Nov 21
Five years ago today, iconic American soul singer Sharon Jones died, aged 60. To mark her anniversary, we're revisiting our original live review of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings' headline show at Dublin's Tripod – originally published in Hot Press in 2010...
In these times of uncertainty and insecurity, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings epitomise an unabashed positivity...
Good funk comes with a feeling, and great funk uses that feeling to move you. When Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings rolled through Tripod on Saturday night it would’ve been hard to find anyone with their back up against a wall, as the eleven-piece groove machine powered through two hours of up-tempo funk, deep-lying soul and heartrending blues.
The group, the signature band on bassist Gabriel Roth’s Daptones record, has long been associated with the ‘old school’ style of funk performance, using only 60s-era instruments and recording their albums using only analogue equipment. In tapping into that spirit, they have become one of the most authentically vintage funk/soul groups plying their trade today.
Opening with a series of quick Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland-inspired instrumentals, bandleader and guitarist Binky Griptite set the group in motion before introducing the star of the night, Sharon Jones. Wielding an irresistable power that emanated from her small frame, Jones was able to light a fire under the band that kicked them into a higher gear. The horn section, led by charismatic trumpet maestro David Guy and sax player Neal Sugarman, kept the energy electric and sent many songs to dizzying heights.
The second song that Jones presided over, ‘Momma Don’t Like My Man,’ showcased her at her captivating best. Holding court over an enraptured crowd, she introduced a story of a woman at odds with her mother over the merits of her man. The song was a simple, stripped-down interplay between her and Griptite, the guitarist’s chunky rhythms jiving tightly with Jones’ soulful vocals, but it punched with all the ferocity of the full band. Jones’ voice was so full of emotion and grit, even in her small scatting and words between songs, that it was a shame that her microphone wasn’t louder, as occasionally the nuances and dynamics of her display were drowned out.
But when the band ratcheted up the energy, they were able to reach some mothership-level heights, as on the Solomon Burke tune ‘Everybody Needs Somebody To Love.’ The song, which Jones introduced as a tribute to the soul master who passed away October 10, was carried by Guy and Sugarman’s punchy horns and Jones led the crowd in a group singalong through the chorus.
Jones was an engaging performer, feeding off the power of the band and the crowd in a way that strongly evoked James Brown and his title of ‘the hardest working man in show business.’ Indeed it was fairly clear where she borrowed from Brown’s performance repertoire, but that’s not to her detriment; you left with the distinct feeling that there needs to be more performers who routinely display the kind of passion and reckless enthusiasm that Jones portrayed on the Tripod stage. She led the audience’s dance party, even grabbing six women from the crowd and dancing with them on stage during the encore before helping them back into the crowd.
Saturday night produced the kind of show that brings everyone together, collects people under a feel-good banner and then releases them into the night to spread that infectious feeling that can only come from a great funk or soul concert. In times of financial insecurity and uncertain futures, it’s that type of unabashed positivity that can be so welcome to so many, and Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings epitomised it.