Sound Academy, Toronto - May 25, 2010

JASON MacNEIL, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:59 AM ET

If there was ever a real life Benjamin Button – the age-reversing character portrayed by Brad Pitt a few years ago -- it might be soul singer Sharon Jones.

For with each passing year, it seems the 54-year-old musician gets a bit more youthful and spry as evident during her near-capacity show Tuesday night at Toronto’s Sound Academy.

That’s not to say that her at times 10-piece supporting cast in the Dap-Kings didn’t hold their own, but for a roughly 10-minute span halfway through her set, Jones was the consummate showman, channeling a young Tina Turner, James Brown and Otis Redding all at once. Dancing up a storm while detailing a historical “train trip” from Africa to America and finally back to Toronto, the small but charismatic performer came close to but never quite rivaled that show-stopper.

Touring behind her new album I Learned The Hard Way, Jones sounds and performs like she’s in the early ‘60s waiting for the label contract with Motown to come through. And after letting the Dap-Kings “warm up” the crowd briefly, Jones opened up the show with If You Call, slowly working herself up into what would be one of several frenzies. This was soon followed up with Highway Of Lost Lovers which then morphed into Jones and her seasoned lineup delving quickly into When The Saints Go Marching In.

“Alright , my goodness!” she exclaimed following the jazzier I’ll Still Be True. “Toronto, I’m here!”

With a SJDK sign in the background (assuming the DK stands for Dap-Kings and not fashion designer Donna Karan), Jones then went straight into another short but snappy nugget Give It Back and brought up a man from the audience to sing to. A similar approach was offered during Window Shopping but didn’t quite have the same punch to it.

Nonetheless when Jones does have those moments of groove-riddled grandeur only a handful of vocalists could match her intensity and drive. One could only hope that collaborating with the old-school soul-belting Bettye LaVette – who just released her own album Interpretations: The British Songbook – is in the cards soon.

Although she delivered a handful of favorites off her earlier albums, including 100 Days, 100 Nights, Jones and company concentrated heavily on the new effort. Highlights included the horn-accented title track which earned a good response and especially on Mama Don’t Like My Man. Here Jones asked the crowd how many purchased the album before having the ditty fleshed out by her two female backing vocalists dubbed the Dapettes.

But even with the new material, Jones effortlessly stepped back in time during the up-tempo, funky When I Come Home as she included a snippet of Lee Dorsey’s Ride Your Pony before doing some ‘60s era dances: the hitchhike, the boogaloo and of course the funky chicken.

Considering how pre-packaged and programmed most concerts are now, it’s good to see a “magnetic je ne sais quoi” like Jones deliver the goods.

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Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Sound Academy, Toronto ON
QMI Agency rating: 4/5


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