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Daptone Soul Revue
Friday, October 23
Greetings from the R-for-Retro wing of Slate‘s infamous DORF matrix, which chides NPR for only spotlighting black music made by those who are Dead, Old, Retro, or Foreign. Verily, Daptone Records has the R on lock, with multiple backing bands conjuring up a slick, lithe, suitably greasy, and only occasionally ill-mannered classic-soul whirlwind, often with a stupendous and wizened singer out front who might well be older than any two dudes in the band put together. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, of course, are your star attractions, but there are other belters to consider, of equal verve and vintage; we’ve miles to go before Sharon saunters out to do the Mashed Potato.
The Budos Band may well be Daptone’s best actual band — all-instrumental and imbued with a sleazy, extra-sinister undertone of gleeful malice (accentuated tonight by scary Halloween-monster masks and nicely undercut by some vicious cowbell), they alone can thrive without an outsized personality at front. But outsized personalities are Daptone’s specialty, so next we get a handful of tunes apiece from Charles Bradley and Lee Fields, two bombastic shouters in a not-at-all-unconvincing James Brown vein; Bradley howls “Life is full of sorrow, heartaches and pain/Again and again” with a pleasingly discordant sort of anguished elation, while Fields, a bit more of a romantic, introduces the female-worshipping boogaloo of “Ladies” by announcing, “Everybody in this building came into this world through a woman. That alone should get a round of applause.”
Lee has a point.
Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens are next: a bit of religious fervor and backup-singer harmony to change things up. Naomi moans about taking the long road with gospel-based serenity but still snarls the word “YEAH” like Satan him/herself, a sharp pitchfork into the backsides of an appreciative crowd nonetheless itching for the headliner.
God bless Sharon. Her set with the Dap-Kings is dismaying short, but she makes the most of it, burning through the half-time breakdown of “100 Days, 100 Nights” with audacious vivacity, dancing with yet another overly touchy-feely gentleman plucked from the crowd, and livening up a new tune, “When I Come Home,” with a series of outrageously enthusiastic dance moves: the Boogaloo, the Pony, the Camel Walk, the Mashed Potato, the Tighten Up. She’s not terribly flashy or histrionic; it’s pure joy, pure sass. At one point she clutches her throat and retreats briefly to the rear of the stage. “I never experienced this in my my life,” she declares upon her return. “I got choked on my own damn saliva.” She works hard enough for that to happen, and enjoys it enough to have no problem admitting it.