Last night, I attended one of the best concerts of my life at The Mountain Winery: Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings. It’s a beautiful venue, I had great company in my friend Erika, and the crowd energy was electric.
I’d been hearing about Sharon Jones for a while and finally heard her and the band on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon earlier this year, before he took over The Tonight Show. It wasn’t more than a few days before I’d bought their most recent album, Give the People What They Want. The album and tour had been postponed for a year while Sharon Jones went through treatment for cancer; fortunately, she is now in remission.
After a quick dinner, Erika and I headed to Saratoga for the show, got a couple of beers, and found our (great) seats, ready to finally enjoy the night we’d been planning since April.
After some quality people-watching, the opening act came on. I always find it strange that so many people don’t show up until after the opener is finished (or talk all through) — what a great opportunity to hear new music, and sometimes the warm-up is even better than the headliner! Last night, we had the pleasure of hearing Gaby Moreno sing. We had never heard of her, but she’s been around for a few years and has been out on tour with Tracy Chapman, Ani DiFranco, and Hugh Laurie. Her set was pretty diverse, mainly focusing on blues with a few songs in Spanish, including “Quizas, Quizas, Quizas”. I’m more familiar with the English version of that one: “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps”, which you may have heard sung by Doris Day or as the theme song for the Britcom Coupling. We loved Moreno’s voice and repertoire and we both purchased a CD (Still the Unknown) at the end of the night.
After a brief intermission (including even more interesting people to watch), The Dap-Kings came onstage. This is an old-school style band, including a horn section, and they come ready to play. The band played a bit and then introduced the back-up singers, Saun & Starr, to sing a couple of numbers. Between Gaby Moreno’s set and the first few minutes of The Dap-Kings and Saun & Starr, I felt I’d already gotten my money’s worth for the tickets..and then, Sharon Jones came out and the place went nuts.
Jones is a total performer: she has a classic soul voice, she uses the stage well, she engages the crowd without being cheesy, and she’s hilarious. A couple songs in, she invited several women up on stage to dance with her. At the end of the song, she had them each take a solo across the stage on their way back to their seats. Let’s agree that most of these women were not blessed by Terpsichore and Jones’s attempts to gently encourage them to exit were very sweet. She brought men up, too, individually, on two different songs. I found it very interesting how overly confident they both were in relation to their skill and in comparison with the women from earlier in the show.
The whole set was high-energy and the audience was totally captivated (except for the guy in his late teens obviously dragged to the show by his parents, who did not look up from his iPhone once during the show). We had an adorable little girl behind us who was singing and dancing all night.
Towards the end of the show, Jones introduced “Get Up and Get Out”, from Give the People What They Want, saying that it was not going to sound like it does on the album. She said the band would take it slow, “like Tina Turner” and she put on Turner’s voice while continuing to introduce the song. During the number, the tempo and intensity of the song increased until Jones took off her shoes and earrings and started to “testify”. She sang-spoke about surviving cancer and telling cancer to “Get Up and Get Out” of her body. This would have been effective in any case, but it also reminded me of my friend Lynette, who would be celebrating her birthday next week, if she hadn’t lost her own battle with cancer in 2011. Seeing Sharon Jones, a 58-year-old woman full of strength and passion, singing and dancing her heart out for us, made me wish that Lynette could have been there with us last night.
Here’s a video I found on YouTube of the same song, performed by Jones and the band in a similar style:
I finally got to hear the song I’d been waiting for all night when Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings came back out for an encore: “Retreat”. It’s obstensibly about coming out on top in a relationship with a jerk, but it seemed to me like a big “Fuck you” to cancer.
Dancing, clapping, singing, laughing, and crying outside in the beautiful cool of the evening, sharing a couple of hours enveloped in the kinds of emotions that only music seems to be able to inspire, I felt truly honored to be a part of this experience…I don’t know how another show will live up to this one, but I think I’ve got a lot of concert years left in me, so bring it on!