Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings - Shepherds Bush Empire

Much more than a retro show...
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The shock of the new, the thrill of the old.

A soul revue just like they used to make, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings are all the things that a forward thinking music critic should really loathe. Clothes that feel like costumes, out of date dance routines and songs that are almost a homage to a by-gone era. So why are they so damn addictive onstage?

Perhaps it’s the attention to detail. Every song, every note has been painstakingly marked out – but not in an anal way. When Sharon Jones barks out ‘What If We All Stopped Paying Taxes?’ it doesn’t feel like some lost studio cut from 1971, it feels urgent, relevant... new.

The rhythm section is – as usual – impeccable. A nod to Motown here, a doff of the cap to Stax there give the impression of experts at work. Sonic librarians, The Dap Kings are able to sculpt reference points into something truly vivid.

Stripping things down to just Sharon Jones and a guitarist, the band pay their respects to a few lost talent. Etta James is name checked, while the singer also reveals that she once worked as a bodyguard for an event attended by Whitney Houston.

Somehow the reference seems to stick. Sharon Jones is far more of an every woman, a battler than most singers. That same sense of struggle moves through her music – it’s difficult to imagine ‘100 Days, 100 Nights’ being re-cast for a modern singer.

In the end, the more explicit reference points feel more like a concession to the audience than a part of their art. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings guide the crowd through dances such as the monkey and the jerk, but their own music is part of a wider culture rather than any particular homage.

Much more than a retro show, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings are aware of their past but able to allow their own identity to shine through. Perhaps they too are driven by that indefinable element known as soul...

Photo Credit: Jacob Blickenstaff

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