Anyone who was lucky enough to catch Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings very first visit to Manchester at the Mint Lounge in 2008 will know there’s a possibility that anything can happen. On that wonderful occasion a succession of bright young things were hauled onto the stage to bump and grind with the irrepressible Miss Jones, so it came as no surprise that tonight’s show sold out fairly rapidly. Opening act the Haggis Horns started the evenings programme in earnest to a near empty Ritz Ballroom. Quite why this should be wasn’t clear although the unusually early start time coupled with the inclement weather may have played a part. However this didn’t deter the boys who put their heart and soul into the performance and managed, by the end, to have the gradually growing crowd shaking a leg.
Emcee and Commander-in-Chief of the Dap-Kings, the wonderfully named Binky Griptite, directed the band with machine precision through a set of songs to steadily ratchet up the eager crowd’s anticipation for the arrival of the original Miss Dynamite, Sharon Jones. When this unconventionally beautiful woman finally emerges, resplendent in black tasselled cocktail dress, and struts purposefully to centre stage, the Ritz explodes into life. Playing material taken from her latest LP, ‘I Learned The Hard Way’, the ten strong Dap-Kings create some infectiously funky vistas where horns punch and guitars sting, leaving Sharon Jones to add the magic ingredient of her whisky mellowed voice to the final mix, to render it irresistible. It’s a simple concept but one that her and her band convey with power and eloquence.
Apart from the barn-storming voice, the other thing one cannot fail to notice is the boundless energy of Jones’ performance and one of the best moments of the night comes early in the set when she shimmies through a repertoire of manic dances including the funky chicken, the mashed potato and the pony to name but three. Not that the party atmosphere is ever allowed to subside and this talented set of musicians continually try, with the aid of unadulterated Soul Power, to free the minds of the Manchester crowd so that their asses will duly follow. In this Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings succeed admirably.
Although Jones’ music been termed retro in some quarters, it’s far from being anachronistic and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings are a living breathing testament to the eternal power of rhythm and blues and an intense celebration of the soul.
Keep the faith!
Review & photos by Phil King