Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings fill the Byham with Apollo soul


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This was the kind of night when the Byham felt more like the Apollo.

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, one of the pre-eminent funk-soul revue bands of the day, came through Sunday night for the final show of their tour, determined to "go out with a bang," in the words of guitarist Binky Griptite.

He started by asking if people were feeling good. When they yelled "Yeah!," he said, "Then why you sitting down?"

From there it was an Apollo-style dance party, starting with the Dapettes and picking up steam with the lady of the hour, a woman who does not stop moving long enough for cancer to keep up with her.

Just three months removed from her last chemo treatment for pancreatic cancer, this small but mighty woman has bounced back with a vengeance. From the balcony, with her short hair, you might have thought Jones was James Brown in a sequined dress and heels gyrating all over the stage and doing the mashed potato while she belted out songs that threw back to '60s soul and R&B. She'd be quick, by the way, to pry that music away from a time period, lest it seem like a museum piece.

It certainly doesn't feel that way with the fury this 14-piece Brooklyn band -- bassist/leader Bosco Mann with four horns, double drummers, percussionist, three guitarists and two backup singers -- brings to rave-ups like "Long Time, Wrong Time," "People Don't Get What They Deserve" and "Retreat," a Supremes-sounding gem highlighted by a feisty dance with a very funky audience member.

So as not to be a wedding band, The Dap-Kings deal mostly in originals, but did take a moment to address their influences with the warhorse "I Heard it Through the Grapevine," putting their own spin on the rhythm.

Ms. Jones is no Aretha (who is?) and does not have material that divine (who does?) but like the great soul singers she torches the room with whatever you give her, whether it's the funky stuff, a sultry ballad like "Slow Down, Love" or even "This Land is Your Land."

She didn't talk about the cancer. Rather, she took it to church with a fiery Southern-style testimony, preaching about getting her hair back and the color in your nails, leading into the gospel workout "Answer Me."

After the main set-closer, before the stage was filled with dancing fans for the encore, Griptite said, "That's right, ladies and gentlemen, the woman who just left the stage is a 57-year-old cancer patient." She didn't look like someone even cancer would want to mess with.

If you've only heard her on record, you're not even getting half the experience of seeing Sharon Jones in action.


Scott Mervis: smervis@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2576.

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