November 2, 2009

Live Review: Daptone Records Super Soul Revue (nearly) at CMJ

Lee Fields

The Budos Band // The Menahan Street Band featuring Charles Bradley and Lee Fields // Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens // Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings //

The Knitting Factory // Brooklyn, NY // Oct. 23, 2009

Not quite CMJ, Friday night's Daptone Records Super Soul Revue left a lot of badge holders disappointed. The private showcase at Brooklyn's Knitting Factory turned away crowds of the city's marathonites who thought the CMJ listing that read "Limited Badges Available" just meant that you needed to get there early.

I was almost one of them, arriving nearly an hour early to the show just to be told the party was a private one and badges were not being accepted. With a little bit of schmoozing and waiting around, I talked the promoter into giving me a stamp. Believe me, it was well worth the wait.

Daptone Records is known around the city for its soulful, been-around-the-block singers and well-oriented, hard and heavy funk bands. Friday's revue had all of the major players hitting it big – from the unstoppably funkin' force of the Budos Band, the Motown-inspired young-and-old, black-and-white Menahan Street Band featuring Charles Bradley and Lee Fields, the soul-swinging endlessly classy Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens, right down to the invincible Sharon Jones with Binky Griptite and the Dap-Kings.

As soon as the Budos Band turned up their sound, the venue was packed. The Knitting Factory's space is large and low-lit and the stage is about four feet off of the ground. Perfect for bright lights and lots of dancing. It isn't heavily decorated either; there is absolutely nothing to distract your eyes on their way to the stage.

The Budos Band

The Budos Band's set was disappointingly short, lasting less than an hour. Dressed in black and adorned in sinister Halloween masks, the green lights that blasted through them the entire time they played made their act seem intentionally surreal. There is no denying that this band takes the cake for Daptone Records as one of their best instrumental lineups. Their is something severe about their funk, darkly heavy and densely percussive.

The Menahan Street Band

After the Budos Band, the Menahan Street Band performed. Their style is significantly lighter than the Budos Band, with an old-school soul flair evident in the music behind the Temptations and Marvin Gaye. During their set they had two men come on stage for a few songs. First was Charles Bradley, an obvious James Brown man with wild, processed hair, tight pants and all the rest. He screamed feverishly and danced like he couldn't possibly be twice the age of his backing band. His resonance was one of soulful pain and unintentional heartache, while the second singer Lee Fields' moans were love, love, love and above all a rejoice of everything woman.

Next, Naomi Shelton and her Gospel Queens took the stage. This multi-racial, all-ages surrender-to-soul was fronted by a woman in her seventies with nothing to lose but her gold sequin hat and the black fur lining her violet jacket. This trip back to the days of Soul Train was a classic one, and while Naomi Shelton could shudder out her gospel-inspired vocals, she could also scream with the grit and sweat of everything that was funky about the '60s.

The headliner, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings along with guitarist Binky Griptite, was truly the anticipation of the night. This frantically dancing and singing queen wasn't afraid to bring the audience on stage or get down and dirty with her sassy self. Bereft of the glitz and glamor of the previous act, Jones was perfectly quaint in her dark jean jacket and slacks. Her voice had more power than anyone that night, and it's no surprise that she is Daptone Records' star. Outrageously genius, Jones and Griptite ripped the stage apart and threw it at the audience with a grin. Good thing this was the kind of audience who knew how to throw it right back.

-Review and photos by Amanda Macchia

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