Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings at Shepherds Bush Empire, London | Live Review

The news of Sharon Jones mum’s passing put the whole tour in temporary doubt but in true showbiz style – the show must go on and thankfully, on March 9, 2012 indeed it did. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings have built themselves a formidable live reputation that the masses of all ages and races had gathered to witness them show and prove at a packed Shepherd Bush Empire.

The eight-piece Dap-Kings entered the stage and unleashed a lengthy funky jam closely followed by the Dapettes backing singers on vocal duties. This warms the crowd up nicely before the sparkling, strutting figure of Sharon Jones takes to the stage and the energy levels from everyone present immediately rise.

Initially all songs blend into one long up-tempo blur of frantic funk with Jones’ vocals struggling to be heard above the three piece horn section. It’s only when the Dap-Kings, sans one guitarist, leave the stage allowing Sharon Jones to lead the crowd through heart felt tributes (complete with amusing anecdotes and impeccable impressions) to Whitney Houston, Etta James and Amy Winehouse – that the sound engineer realises the error of his ways and increasing her mic volume plus cleans the mix from its previously muddy state.

The second of the show is so much better for it. Once the band rejoins her, the whole band really hit their stride and delivers storming renditions of Gladys Knight & the Pips‘ “Giving Up” and “100 Days, 100 Nights.”

The sheer charisma, boundless energy and uplifting soul of Sharon Jones is evident throughout the set and make it hard to take your eyes away from following her every move. Any singer wanting to know how to front a band and interact with a crowd with warmth and sincerity needs to seek out a tape of this show.

This is even more apparent when Jones graciously shares the stage with a random gaggle of dancing women brought up from the front row; it’s a nice touch and certainly enhances the nights of the lucky group.

With a set drawn from mostly new material, a few old favourites go amiss much to this writer’s disappointment. However, minor quibbles aside – the show was a resounding success, as the majority of the audience grinning from ear to ear as they exited into the mild West London night would testify.

The night was further proof that the tight musicianship and dapper be suited goodtime vibes of the Dap-Kings coupled with the irrepressible humility of Sharon Jones have crowned them the official people’s champs.

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