James Hunter’s sound is a modern tribute to 50s/60s blues-rock and soul. He’s toured with some of the best, including Aretha Franklin, Etta James, and Boz Scaggs. And as you have probably now guessed, his set on Saturday night at the Commodore was unbelievable. His voice is such a sweet growl that you almost can’t believe he could make a sound without singing – until he speaks, and out comes that delightful English twang. His dance moves scream Elvis while his singing preaches Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson. Toss in a few lewd lyrics and a little personal flair, and you’ve got the recipe for something uniquely James Hunter.
Three of Sharon Jones’s Dap Kings backed him up in his set, a combination stellar enough to make most of the Commodore take to the floor with gin and tonics in hand and warm up their hips for Sharon Jones herself. It was a very social crowd, smiles all around and conversation flowing easily from date to stranger. From young to old, hipster to jazz snob, everybody just wanted everybody to have a good time. For the record, we all did.
But not even the great James Hunter with all his heat could compare to the fire that is Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings. Jones is easily the most energetic 58-year-old I’ve ever seen perform on stage. She taught the whole crowd some choice dance moves from the 60s, including the Twist and the Funky Chicken, so the whole floor at the Commodore was in sync. When she swayed left, we leaned with her. We were grooving backwards in time.
She was bopping all over the place, throwing up her hands and shaking her booty slow to fast, calling herself Tina Turner. Her energy was infectious, giving us a serious case of the jives, injecting us with soul-fever. All this from a woman who conquered cancer mere months ago. Fucking remarkable.
Turns out you don’t want to be on her bad side. She had a few issues with the sound people, and from the looks of things, they got more than an earful for not fixing things quickly enough. Such is the power of soul, though, that not even this stopped the funk. She sang out her frustrations gospel-style to a very sympathetic crowd. We danced in support of her struggles. She sang a little more, she got a little more irritated, and she thundered it out to us again.
The Dap Kings are not to be forgotten in this equation. Each one had something that was completely his own going on the entire time, but they all swayed to the same beat. Every single person on that stage was an obviously talented musician, and they fit together perfectly. A few unassuming, a few all-smiles, a few dancers, and all dressed to the nines. I don\t care if it’s redundant. They are just so dapper.
The highlight of the evening for me and twenty-odd other people was when Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings invited us up on the stage to dance. We lucky few got to dance with the lot of them, and golly, have they got some moves. I actually got to twirl Sharon Jones and bump my hip against more than one Dap Kings.
What more can you ask of a Saturday night soul fest at the Commodore?