Starting a music career at age 40 is uncommon. It is also rare for a rising musician to leave the industry for a few years and then return with any chance of being successful again,
Yet Sharon Jones, the lead singer of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, has beaten the odds of both the harsh music industry and of surviving stage II pancreatic cancer, which has a 10 percent survival rate. Her performance last Thursday, Feb. 6 at the Beacon Theater put that resilience and spirit on display for the first time since Jones’ treatment for her cancer.
After a few soulful opening songs from the Dap Kings with Saundra Williams and Starr Duncan, formerly known as the Dapettes (backup singers), Jones burst out on stage to a roaring audience. Her soul and rhythm-and-blues style came straight from the heart and easily filled the Beacon.
Two or three times Jones had to stop to remember words or catch her breath during the hour and 45 minute show — a lengthy show for any performer, but especially astounding for somebody who just beat cancer.
During those breaks, Jones took the time to point out people in the audience that helped her through her recovery such as her doctor, the friend she now lives with and the leader of the wedding band she used to sing with. She also called up two people from the audience. The first was a young woman with whom Jones danced and sang her version of “This Land is Your Land.” The second was an older man who danced along to Jones’ song “Long Time, Wrong Time.”
One of the highlights of the night came when the horns blared the recognizable first few bars of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings’ most famous song, “100 Days, 100 Nights”. The crowd immediately recognized the favorite and somehow grew louder and danced more energetically than they had been already.
Just like with every other song, Jones put her heart, soul and hips into the powerful number. The energy of this performance might have been matched only by Jones’ encore during which she sang “When I Come Home” and showcased the dance moves of the ’60s and ’70s like the boogaloo, the pony, the jerk and the twist.
The atmosphere at the theater that night was reminiscent of the Motown era. Daptone Records, the independent recording company that signed with Jones and other artists of the same soul, has strived to reignite this soulful flame and they are getting what they asked for from this marvelous band of performers.
A version of this article appeared in the Feb. 13 print edition. Sean Hickey is a contributing writer. Email him at [email protected]