When a touring band comes to town, they've got to make it special. We've all seen a million performers say something like, "Oh man, we always love coming to Minneapolis." Everybody does this; it's a great pretense. The trick is making it seem real.
Sharon Jones has no trouble making things real. "I've been all over Europe and America touring," she announced in her sonorous Georgia voice. But apparently this was the first show she brought to capacity -- First Avenue was certainly packed, with an eager multigenerational and multiracial crowd. "So the next time I give an interview, and they ask 'How's the tour going,' I'll say 'I sold Minneapolis out!'" Another honor for the Twin Cities: "I'm wearing the same dress I wore at the Apollo," (it was a nice little black number with some fringe, very girl-group) "...so I'm gonna strut my frills, okay?"
When you're doing what you love, you can go on forever, and Jones, 51(!), has boundless energy and knows how to cook a room. Dancing, belting, turning her band on a dime, bringing people up on stage, cooling the crowd down, holding songs up, rushing them forward, "Lemme take that verse again, okay?" It's hard to pick out highlights from the marathon set, but the 6/8 detour inserted into "100 Days, 100 Nights" and the fearless cover of "It's A Man's World" stuck to me the hardest.
It's not 1962 or '66 or '72. Yhe rules for how to have a dynamite soul-funk act are very much written -- the ghost of James Brown hung heavy over every note and every move -- but the Dap-Kings do it right. A crew of 20- and 30-something dudes, very dapper, obviously drilled with military precision, looked like the happiest guys on earth (in a very professional manner). They don't just rely on a few crowd-pleasing retro cliches, they perfectly inhabit a parallel Brownian universe. There wasn't a bum note or an uncreased trouser seam in the whole night.
I often leave a show thinking, man, wish that band tried a little harder, but not tonight. At the end of two solid and I mean solid hours of music, the capacity crowd had noticeably thinned: Sharon Jones had worn Minneapolis out.