Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings brought light into Liberty Hall Saturday night

There was a time last year when soul icon Sharon Jones didn’t know if she was ever going to be able to perform music from her and the Dap-Kings’ latest album, Give the People What They Want. As she explained to Noisey’s Eric Sundermann last winter in this open and revealing interview (really, you should read it): 

When the doctor diagnosed that it was pancreatic cancer stage two, I didn’t know if I was going to die. [But] I thought I was going to die. I thought I wasn’t ever going to do a show to perform this album. Because it’s like, that was it for me. And I really thought that.

Even reading these words from the vivacious singer was a punch in the gut. What if we lost her? 

Thankfully and remarkably, Ms. Jones seems to be well in to recovery, just a few months after finishing chemotherapy. Yet I still was a bit nervous, waiting for her to appear onstage. How would she be?

The Dap-Kings, as is their tradition, warmed up the crowd with a few songs before Jones joined them. Fronted by bandleader Bosco Mann and the Dap Ettes, Saundra Williams and Starr Duncan, the Dap-Kings brought the bright brass, the tight percussion, the synced dance moves, and the crowd responded, clearly eager to move. 

And then there was Jones. She came to the front of the stage, wearing a sparkly black-and-silver dress, a big smile on her face. Her hair had begun to grow back. She looked fantastic. 

Ms. Jones not only is recovering but also seems, if possible, to be getting more out of performing than ever. Every inch of her body goes into her act. She shimmies and wails. Her voice is clear, and if there was ever any question that Sharon Jones has just been there and back, that is gone. It gets no more authentic than her, and she’s inspiring. 

One of many highlights of the evening was when she invited a handful of women onstage to dance with her, including (I’m pretty sure) Rachel Christia from KC’s Hearts of Darkness. After all of the women had danced offstage, she kept rolling. “When Sharon feels like dancing…,” she said, before showing and asking the audience to participate with her in doing the pony, the mashed potato, to tighten up and to do the twist. She had each band member show off moves. 

The tightly packed audience, particularly near the stage, responded to Jones’ energy with elation, and danced and swayed to each song she delivered. The performance lasted nearly two hours – impressive for any artist but kind of dumbfounding for someone who throws herself into performance as much as Jones does. 

All hail Ms. Jones.

Set list
– (very approximate and not necessarily in order. Please comment below on any songs I may have missed):

Stranger to My Happiness
You’ll Be Lonely
Long Time, Wrong Time
If You Call
I Heard It Through the Grapevine (Marvin Gaye)
We Get Along
Tell Me
Get Up and Get Out
100 Days, 100 Nights
Making Up and Breaking Up (And Making Up and Breaking Up Over Again)
Now I See
People Don’t Get What They Deserve
Slow Down, Love
Better Things
I Learned The Hard Way 

Broadway Combination (Dyke and the Blazers)
This Land is Your Land (Woody Guthrie)

Categories: Music