Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings first came to my attention from the publicity and press for Amy Winehouse's second album Back To Black in 2006 (yes it's been that long waiting for a follow up, but that's a different story altogether.) Producer Mark Ronson had used some of The Dap-Kings musicians to give the tracks an authentic soul and 60s vibe and brought them on board during the recording sessions. It was here where I first heard them and the seed was planted. A few google clicks later and I'm staring at their own web page and can see that not only do they produce and sell their own records, they have their own studio and label as well with their own roster of artists with the same vision and taste.

The first record I saw for sale was Sharon Jones 100 Days, 100 Nights and from then I've been hooked. I hadn't managed to catch the group live so jumped at the chance to see them at the Barbican in London and give my own thoughts on them, face to face.

Wednesday 6th July is the date and although my mind for such small details is as empty as a hermits address book I can honestly say I will remember this gig forever. It was almost like a passport back to another time, as if I'd walked from Barbican Tube Station and walked into the Harlem Square Club in 1963. This band has everything down perfectly, the introductions, the instrumentals and acts that send the audience to fever pitch. Another nice touch about the evening is the fact that instead of separating the support act and the headliner they simply promote and call the evening "The Daptones Soul Revue" feat. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, The Dap-Ettes and Charles Bradley (The Screaming Eagle of soul) who started the show at 100mph and didn’t slow down till the end complete with knee drops, James Brown screams and a water tight band that keep everything pure and full of old skool soul and funk throughout playing tracks from his debut album No Time for Dreaming

The Dap-Kings took the stage and after some instrumentals that could have come straight from Superfly or Across 100 Street the Dap-Ettes were introduced and each took a song that although are 100% original sound so well executed and arranged that it’s quite a feat that everyone in the crowd ‘knew’ them already, without knowing (cop that Mr Miaggi.) It would be a dis-service to simply call the band 'retro', I prefer to just see them as carrying on the great tradition of American music that came before them.

The sound itself is amazing, whether The Dap-Kings have their own 'on the road' sound engineers I don’t know but the whole show from start to the final encore was pure vintage and mixed to perfection. Usually at live shows of this nature every instrument and voice is spread across a million channels and panned in the newest 5.1 Dolby stereo fancy pants-ness where as tonight it seemed they were taking the technology back with them. Horns blended together around single microphones, you could actually see the drummer where as most of the time at gigs they are hidden behind racks of microphones and stands, even guitar amps were tiny. Most importantly, throughout the performance everyone left room musically for everyone else to play. Less is more seems to be a cliché but one that is the hallmark here.

Sharon Jones took the stage in a sequined gold dress straight from The Ike-Ettes wardrobe and made the thing shake throughout. For a woman of 55 she puts the young pretenders in the shade; she dances, she sings, she cracks jokes, tells stories, never pausing for breath. She has said in interviews that her biggest musical hero is James Brown and you can’t argue with that statement in any way. She is a force of nature in full flow.

The set features mostly from the new album I Learned the Hard Way but picked also from the classic ‘100 Days, 100 Nights’ (the title track especially bringing one of the biggest cheers of the evening.) There were cover versions added throughout including a brand new Dap-Kings arrangement of Prince’s 80s tune ‘Take Me With You’ which when played against the original sounds like this came first and Prince’s was the cover (the band have just come off tour with Prince who joined them on guitar for a few songs only a couple of days earlier in Belgium). Other homage’s include snippets of Louis Armstrong to the final breaths and moans of James Brown’s ‘It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World’ for the encore.

R&B means a whole different thing to what it used to. Images of handsome black guys with shaved heads singing about fine wine, silk sheets and songs that start with a time check i.e. “3 o’clock in the moooorning….shorty walks innnnn etc” have clogged up the airwaves and the racks in record shops leaving only a few spaces for the originals and the real deal R&B and Soul acts such as Ray Charles, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave and Otis Redding. Sharon Jones and the whole Daptones label are kicking the doors off the hinges and taking the genre back to its roots. One day R&B will mean Rhythm and Blues once again. Beyonce, Leona Lewis, Rihanna, Alexandra Burke and anyone else you care to mention, you’re all being pushed in the shadows of the sell outs. AOR masked as R&B, you’re all being whipped by a woman your mother’s age and she’s dynamite…watch and learn.

Many thanks to Sapphire Mason-Brown for the photography.