Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings perform at The Beacham, March 21st.
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings don’t play a set so much as they Put On a Show.
It’s a show in the old-fashioned sense, where it’s not just about mere displays of instrumental prowess. That sort of thing is more about the musicians than the audience, and Jones and her band were keenly focused on the audience Saturday night at the Webster Theatre — namely, on entertaining the hell out of it.
There was, of course, plenty of virtuosity. Led by bassist Bosco Mann, the band is set up like an old-school soul revue, with horns, backing singers, a crack rhythm section and a pair of guitarists, holding down soul and funk grooves that wouldn’t have sounded out of place at the height of the Motown-Stax rivalry in the late ’60s.
In to that mix wades Jones, a 54-year-old, 4-foot-11 dynamo. Well, not “wades” so much as “hurtles.” The woman never stood still: she shook, she shimmied, she did the Watusi, the funky chicken and the jerk. And she sang in a full-throated, passionate roar, and when she wasn’t rebuking her man for a wandering eye or wasting her time, she was shrugging him off like a cheap shawl for being wishy-washy.
“When the mic gets in my hand, it seems like I lose my mind sometimes,” Jones announced, beaming, toward the end of the 90-minute show.
She and the Dap-Kings drew largely from their most recent albums, last year’s “I Learned the Hard Way” and 2007’s “100 Days, 100 Nights,” but even the songs were sometimes secondary to the Show. On “Give It Back,” Jones picked out a tall, slender guy in the crowd (Shane, he said his name was) and brought him on stage to dance with her in an up-close encounter with her relentless rhythm. Later, on “How Do I Let a Good Man Down?” she brought up a handful of women to dance, sending them off in pairs with instructions to shimmy.
Often, though, the songs and the Show were one and the same: the band played a fast, moody vamp that emphasized the theme on “She Ain’t a Child No More,” and only a guitarist and the backing singers stayed to help on a loose, swaying version of “Mama Don’t Like My Man.”
Jones closed the main set with the title track from “100 Days, 100 Nights,” then returned to wrap up the show with the gospel-flavored tune “Answer Me.”