MANHATTAN, NY—For about 12 years, the heavy-touring Brooklyn-based Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings brought 1970s-style funk and soul music to an increasingly larger fanbase. The band’s fifth album, Give The People What They Want, and its supportive concert tour were to spearhead the revivalist movement even further in the spring of 2013. Suddenly, Jones was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and everything stopped. The album’s release was placed on hold and Jones and the band members were silent for nearly a year. Jones had surgery in New York City, then received treatments and recovered from June 2013 to January 2014 in Sharon Springs, New York. She completed her chemotherapy treatments a month ago, and two weeks ago, she announced that she was cancer-free. The long-delayed album was released on January 14 and a victory tour was launched tonight at the Beacon Theatre.
The disease that attempted to silence Jones seemed to have made her stronger in the end. In the group’s first show in nearly a year, Jones shared with her audience that “this past year was hell.” She joyfully celebrated her return, joking about how she was nervous about coming on stage again because she worried if people would like her without hair. No longer sporting braids, she added, “Since I don’t have hair, I’m gonna shake my head!” Back to doing what she loved best, Jones sang her trademark soul songs with seemingly bottomless lungs, kicked off her shoes several times and throughout the 90-minute show danced energetically to the music in a nonstop soul marathon. There was little need for seats in the theater, as most of the audience danced and grooved with her for the entire show. She called on friends, including a fellow cancer survivor, to dance with her on stage. Several times in the show, she asked for the house lights to be turned on so she could introduce her oncologist, relatives, and even residents of Sharon Springs.
As the Dap-Kings played crisp funk stompers, powered by a blaring brass combo and a feel-good rhythm section, Jones remained in fine voice, singing with the kind of sweet passion one finds in a gospel choir. Perhaps the greatest standouts were not her original songs, but her steaming fuel-immersed cover of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” followed by a reinterpretation of a Motown standard, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine.” During the encore, Jones sang about (and demonstrated!) popular dances from the 1960s—the jerk, the twist, the pony, the boogaloo and the camel walk.
For Jones & The Dap-Kings, the year of darkness was defeated. It was all about having a good time now. The audience was invited to share in this special celebration.
Visit Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings at sharonjonesandthedapkings.com.