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Sharon Jones‘ first record, Dap-Dippin’ With Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, was a driving soul LP penned almost entirely by her ace bassist, Bosco Mann; metronomically speaking, it clocked in between 100 and 140 beats per minute. Her sophomore effort, Naturally, was a more mannered affair, with Lee Fields doing his best Otis Redding impression (on the soap opera/soul-recitative “Stranded in Your Love”) and the frontwoman expanding her repertoire into down-tempo balladry.
You won’t need a metronome to guess that it was the James Brown-type grooves off the first record that kept the 9:30 Club audience (at $30 a pop) shaking and sweating past midnight on Saturday. Jones’ show is structured along the lines of a gospel revue, a single extended exhortation that includes a lot of flop-sweat and audience participation. Anchored on the low end by a belch-y bari sax and on the high end by squealing trumpet and a two-guitar attack, Jones lays down her brash soprano with the confident intimacy of an old lover who sees right through you (cf. “What Have You Done for Me Lately?”). She sees right through herself too—ribbing things like her age (53) and her height (unspecified, though she notes that her legs are about half as long as Tina Turner’s). That low center of gravity matches a barreling live presence, one not easily effaced by the occasional Wedding-band funk of her otherwise groovy associates.
Fittingly, this was also the throngingest crowd I’ve seen at the 9:30 Club. What makes one sold-out show more packed than another? Probably all that dancing. Sure, Jones played only a 75-minute set—a rollicking, heart-stopping, thoroughly exhausting set—as opposed to the marathon two-fers she’s been known to pull on occasion. But that’s not much to complain about. Especially since, for many couples, 75 minutes is a whole lotta foreplay.