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It’s incredible what you’ll try to get away with when you wear a suit. Opening this quirky double bill, the eight-man, mostly white Dap-King flank behind soul spark plug Sharon Jones kept in military step as if their credibility depended upon it. Which, of course, it did, if mimesis is your sort of afrodesiac. While their wide-throated frontwoman riffed on doing good men wrong and mean men doing wrong—attachment issues, much?—they maintained a clean politesse, assertions of being “badder than bad” notwithstanding.
When Jones caught dance fever on a cover of James Brown’s “There Was a Time” or kicked off her shoes and went on ad nauseam about her dual African and Native American heritage, with steps to match, the band inadvertently provided a stern rebuke: Funk is form, Ma, so dress the part. Jones stomped on, glorious and oblivious in equal measure.
The Dap-Kings’s narrow suits were an in-your-face statement of propriety, trying—and failing—to divert attention from the primness beneath. For the Time, the tropic-toned numbers are there to tighten up the mess. Black dandy Morris Day is a decade or two off his square; in the meanwhile, it’s possible the Time has become Jerome’s band. While Morris, in a black crushed-velvet number, cussed up a storm—what happened to slick talk?—his sideman shouldered the crowd, the energy, the corralling of white women. Everything but the music, which was fine, because the fortysomethings in attendance needed no help, certainly not from the band, who gave an adequate performance—”The Stick,” “Cool,” “777-9311,” “The Bird”—that thrilled only thanks to collective memory.
“Gigolos Get Lonely Too” was the Time’s lone moment of genuine pathos, a primer on the perils of aging and the fallacy of ego, as hon
est as the slowing of Morris’s step. Once was that the Time’s sartorial choices were a sinister lure, a cheap trick; now they only code a safe place to transgress. Twenty-eight women were escorted onstage during “Ice Cream Castles,” but there was nothing more unruly than the sweat seeping through Jerome’s burgundy blazer, top button closed tight.