The best moment of Jason Reitman‘s Up in the Air has nothing to do with George Clooney or the film’s, you know, relevance at a time of national insolvency. Actually, it’s a lot more simple, and it happens over the opening credits: a Woody Guthrie song recast as dark soul-groove with an estimable female belting and crooning at turns, ominously either way, about this land being your land and mine as well. The female in question is Sharon Jones, her band the Dap-Kings, and never mind the song’s new subtext when performed by a black woman: Jones could sing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and instill it with undertones of dark sexuality and attendant doom.
That doom, though, she reserves for the deep cuts on her excellent LPs. In concert, Jones sticks to the script, and the script—on New Year’s Eve especially—calls for free champagne and bass-lines that don’t walk so much as hustle. Stand far enough front, and the woman who boasts that her legs are “half as long as Tina Turner’s” will drag you onstage by the scruff of your neck and teach you the art of the hip-shake while skewering you with a rendition of “What Have You Done For Me Lately?” Stand far enough back, and you’ll see more mating rituals than a David Attenborough TV special. Jones and the ‘Kings tend to have that effect on an audience—and this groove, after all, was made for you and me.
SHARON JONES PERFORMS WITH FITZ & THE TANTRUMS AT THE 9:30 CLUB, 815 V ST. NW. (202) 265-0930. 9 P.M. DOORS. $55