Sharon Jones testifies to music’s power, life’s glory at Liberty Hall

03/09/2014 7:31 PM

03/09/2014 7:31 PM

If any moment epitomized the transcendent mood that filled Liberty Hall on Saturday night, it was when Sharon Jones led her Dap-Kings into “Get Up and Get Out.”

Before they lit the fuse on it, Jones advised the sold-out, wall-to-wall crowd that this version of the song would not be like the recorded version. And it wasn’t. Not even close.

“Get Up” is about expunging from the heart those who do it no good, but by the time she’d finished, Jones had kicked off her shoes and turned the song into an evangelical manifesto against the pancreatic cancer she had been battling since last year. Several surgeries and chemo treatments later, she is back onstage, deepening her legend as a survivor and one of the most dynamic live performers out there.

It was Jones’ first performance in this area since September 2010, when she drew a crowd of about 1,000 to the Midland theater. Saturday’s crowd was about the same size, but inside the smaller and more intimate Liberty Hall, the mood was electric all night, thanks to her indomitable will to deliver a wild, good time.

She was backed by two vocalists and the tight but free-wheeling eight-man Dap-Kings, who comprise a three-piece horn section, drummer, bassist, percussionist and two guitarists. All night they delivered thick and heavy doses of funk and soul, with a brassy wallop, often showing off their own dance choreography as they did. They were directed by bassist Bosco Mann, co-founder of Jones’ record label, Daptone Records.

Jones was in motion for nearly the entire set, which exceeded two hours. She brought fans up onstage three times, first when she danced with a woman during “Heard It Through the Grapevine.” Later, she brought up six or seven other ladies and had each dance solo as they exited the stage.

That was all small stuff compared to the joyous dance mob that took over the stage near the show’s end.

The place was so packed downstairs that the sound was an issue if you were standing in back, underneath the balcony overhang. It didn’t help that a few too many people back there talked as much as they listened. But out on the open floor and up in the balcony, where plenty of dancing broke out, the vibe was electric, almost riotous at times.

“Get Up” was among several highlights that also included a stand-out version of “100 Days, 100 Nights,” a smoldering rendition of “Tell Me,” plus several new ones, like “Stranger to My Happiness,” “Slow Down, Love” and “You’ll Be Lonely.”

Also on the set list: “People Don’t Get What They Deserve,” “Now I See” and “Better Things.”

It all added up to a celebration of, and testament to, her spirit. In December, Jones, 57, finished her final chemo treatment. In January, she announced she was cancer-free. And there she was in Lawrence on Saturday night, unleashing the energy and showing the stamina and dynamism of someone half her age.

She is a survivor in every sense of that word, true, but more than that, Sharon Jones is a conqueror, of all she does.

Valerie June:

It’s too bad more people weren’t listening to her because she put on one of the best opening sets I’ve seen in a while.

June dabbles in folk, old-time country and country blues. She can strum a nice guitar and pluck a banjo too, but her voice is what is so arresting — as powerful as it is soulful.

Joined by a bassist, a drummer and, for a few songs, one of the Dap-Kings on guitar, she delivered a dandy 45-minute set. The highlights included “Workin’ Woman Blues,” “Tennessee Time” and “The World Is Not My Home.”

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