Diva Double-Header: Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings and Valerie June in Austin
Valerie June had a huge year in 2013 with the release of her debut album, Pushin’ Against A Stone, which was flawlessly produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys and ranked highly in numerous “best of” lists. As the new year gets going the Tennessee native’s relentless tour schedule shows that she has no intention of slowing down. Given the buzz surrounding June, it was no surprise to see such a large turnout to catch her early opening set for Sharon Jones.
Wearing turquoise cowboy boots, June graced ACL stage with a shy innocence that comes in contrast to the powerful confidence of songs like “Workin’ Woman’s Blues,” “The Hour” and the anthemic, Black Keys-esque “You Can’t Be Told.” Though her touring lineup is stripped down from the massive production of the album, all Valerie June really needs is a guitar to go along with her beautifully unique voice. Onstage the singer-songwriter doesn’t move around and dance wildly, but she doesn’t need to because the natural perfection of her voice is enough to enrapture any audience. Despite her short set, Valerie June charmed everyone paying attention. Sometimes the hype machine pushes a musician to popularity when they may not possess any real talent or originality, but Valerie June is one artist making music that is truly special and different than anything you’ve ever heard before.
Even if she hadn’t been wearing a bright gold dress, Sharon Jones shined like a star the second she hit the stage and the audience was unable to resist the gravitational pull of one of the top living soul singers. Having just beat her battle with cancer, Jones had every intention of showing the audience that not even life-threatening illness can stop her from doing what she does best: giving the people what they want. With her head still shaved from chemotherapy, Jones burst out with the all too appropriate “Stranger to My Happiness,” an up-tempo tune that encapsulates the soul singer’s authoritative bravado. At the age of 57 Jones can sing circles around Beyoncé. Not only that, but she doesn’t rely on an elaborate stage show and an army of backup dancers to boost her presence. All Sharon Jones needs is the Dap-Kings, an incredibly talented band with one of the tightest grooves you will ever hear. For much of the set the band stuck to songs off their recently released album Give The People What They Want, but also indulged the crowd with older fan favorites like “100 Days, 100 Nights” and classic covers such as “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” and “This Land Is Your Land.”
When Sharon Jones is in a room she is the sun and everyone else is an orbiting planet absorbing her warmth. At the Moody Theater on Wednesday Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings did not simply play a concert, they put on a show filled with all of the energy one would expect from the great entertainers of the past. While the band jived in unison Jones did everything you would expect from a true entertainer, never letting her voice falter as she enlightened the audience with her dance moves. Most importantly, throughout the performance Jones exuded her elation at being able to stick around in this world and share with as many people as possible not only her music, but also her zest for life. -Neil Ferguson
PHOTO CREDIT: ROGER HO
This article was originally published on The Horn, an online publication based out of Austin, Texas.