If you’re going to see Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings on May 26 at The National and happen to be the type of fan who likes to take things in from the front row, you should be prepared to become part of the show…
“I love Montreal, man. Every time we play there we have a good time. The crowds are amazing- they really seem to get into the music.”
The Dap-Kings are the incredible soul and funk group that back up lead singer Sharon Jones, who is one of the most engaging live performers I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. Jones, a one-time prison guard whose singing career was revived in the mid-nineties, often pulls audience members up on stage to tease, flirt, serenade, dance with and generally dare to keep up with her.
“You never know what Sharon is going to do, she’ll pull anyone up. We just try to follow along wherever she goes,” says Gabriel Roth, over the phone from New York. Roth is the Dap-Kings’ bassist and main songwriter and the co-founder of Daptone Records, the label that releases their albums alongside other like-minded musicians. Roth says that Jones’ unstructured approach to concerts extends to the entire group.
“We don’t have set lists, we call everything on the fly and it stays pretty spontaneous. We like to keep it real loose, listen to the crowd and call them out as we go. The band is pretty good like that- we can stop on a dime and drop into a ballad from something real up-tempo.”
This loose approach is only possible because the Dap-Kings are filled up with world-class musicians who’ve recorded for everyone from Amy Winehouse to Al Green, Nas to Bebel Gilberto. However, when recording their latest album, I Learned the Hard Way, the group was a little more structured, in part because of the older, analog recording equipment they use.
“In the studio, it’s different. We work real hard on having everything ready to go for when everyone gets there. It’s both the advantage and limitation of recording that way- you kind of have one shot to get it done.”
Roth reports that Jones and the band always look forward to playing Montreal: “I love Montreal, man. Every time we play there we have a good time. The crowds are amazing- they really seem to get into the music.”