Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings at Sound Academy, Toronto – Gig review

May 28, 2010

Gig/Concert: Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
Venue: Sound Academy, Toronto, ON, Canada
Date: 25 May 2010
In one word: Unrestrained

Last Tuesday night was one of the first dog days of summer in this city, so it’s appropriate enough that the best concerts of the night were happening all along the lakeshore. At the Harbourfront Centre, Toronto techno duo Woodhands were performing for free as a part of the Inside the Musician’s Studio series. Not too far away at the Kool Haus LCD Soundsystem was playing a sold out show to promote their just realeased album “This is Happening”. But my pick of the night was Brooklyn’s own Dap Kings playing with Sharon Jones at the Sound Academy.

The scene  couldn’t have been more different from the last time I made the trek down to Polson Pier. For one, the spring storm that had provided the perfect backdrop for the moody triphop stylings of Massive Attack had been replaced with sweltering summer heat. The passive crowd that had stood around with their arms crossed was gone too, replaced with funk and soul fans of all ages who just wanted to shake a tail feather.

The set was done up simply. In keeping with the band’s dismissal of technology created after the mid-1970’s, there were no smoke machines or laser light-shows. A sign with the letters “SJDK” were all the band  brought with them in way of props. The band was also the first I’ve seen to make use of the venue’s dramatic red curtains, which closed after opener’s The Heavy left stage.

The red curtains open around 10:30 onto the eight piece band (2 horns, 1 saxphonist, 2 percussionists, 2 guitarists, and 1 bassist), but Miss Sharon Jones is nowhere to be seen. A light falls onto guitarist Binky who introduces the band as if for variety television, “Ladies and Gentleman, the Dap Kings”. The Dap Kings are one-part blues brothers cool one-part high class in their matching suits, and they lay a tune or two down onto the crowd before the diva herself takes the stage.

She is Brooklyn thunder in a short black and silver lame(lamay) dress, and when she takes the stage you know that she is the queen of these Dap Kings. Her banter has a cool salesmanlike swagger. Miss Jones sings with her whole body, and her voice is big. BIG. On recording her voice sounds like a flawless soul sister, but she sounds restrained compared to this real-life incarnation whose not afraid to belt or break a sweat in her cocktail dress.

Am I jumping the gun by saying the Sharon Jones and her Dap Kings put on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen? (Her competitors are the 2 Robo-DJs from France, and in comparison this show is the opposite end of that all that digital tweaking. As revivalists of funk and soul in the key of James Brown, they won’t have it.)  I missed out on the heyday of this genre, but watching Sharon Jones perform I felt like I was listening to that music for the first time. The Dap Kings pick-up where their retro influences left off, and far from feeling like a flashback, this house band manages to infuse it with a some life again. When that set of red curtains closed at the end of the band’s 2 hour set, I was sweating and exhausted from dancing, basking in the after glow of a summer night well spent taking in a little imported New York cool.

© Natascha Malta, Music Vice

Related links:
SJ & the DK – Official WebsiteSharon Jones and the Dap-Kings


One Response to Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings at Sound Academy, Toronto – Gig review

  1. Frank on May 29, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    So glad you loved Sharon Jones and band. I saw them at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, NY a few weeks ago for the 2nd time, and I will say it; she is THE best performer I have ever seen. Love her and love the band. So glad they’re getting recognized.

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