Sharon Jones is a force to be reckoned with. A hurricane. An eighth wonder. A female James Brown. On Friday night, she opened for Cyndi Lauper at Chastain Park and those who got a taste of Jones for the first time will no doubt seek her out later for a main course.
Simply put, Jones is no one’s opening act. No sane artist would want to follow in her footsteps even on their best night. The funky soul phenomenon and native of Augusta has enough energy at 54 years old to help Georgia Power out during a heat wave.
Yes, she’s all that and then some.
Jones along with her Dap Kings band mesmerized the crowd as she belted out hits such as “She Ain’t a Child No More,” “Give it Back,” and Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.” If you’ve never heard of Sharon Jones, put that on your to-do list. See a show, buy an album. Her latest release, “I Learned the Hard Way,” is sassy, brash and a treasure for old soul lovers.
Her high energy show will make you think the Godfather of Soul has reincarnated in a dress, particularly when she works it hard and fast, then slow and easy, then fast again in “100 Days.”
But enough about Jones, since it was Lauper’s show. The pop-rock singer spent most of the night singing from her new “Memphis Blues” album, which features blues legend B.B. King, Allen Touissant and Johnny Lang.
Lauper came on stage sans music sporting fire red hair and see-through pants and jacket, though her semi-exposed rear was a bit distracting. At 57, Lauper still has that loopy, seemingly naïve personality, though she’s not afraid to pull her diva weight on stage from time to time.
She started out the set with Marion Walter Jacob’s “Just Your Fool,” followed by “Shattered Dreams.”
Lauper sang a batch of songs that many would consider best of the blues: “How Blue Can You Get” (Johnny Lang), “Down Don’t Bother Me” (Albert King), along with Muddy Waters’ “Rolling and Tumblin’” and Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads.”
During the show, Lauper recounted a moment in college when she got to shake B.B. King’s hand, though a shy girl then (if you can believe that), she couldn’t look him in the eye. She seemed giddy talking about the chance to work with King on “Early in the Mornin,’” also on her new album.
Lauper said she decided to do “Memphis Blues” because she believed the genre needed a shot in the arm. But her rendition of blues gave me the blues, as much as I wanted to like it. One exception was the uptempo “Don’t Cry No More,” which made even Lauper peel off her heels.
Perhaps the studio version of the album works better. But, hey, at least her heart’s in it. And maybe that’s the problem. Blues is a genre that has to come from deep within the soul, the heart alone just doesn’t cut it.
By the time Lauper finally got around to singing her own pop classics from her debut album “So Unusual,” including “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” “Time After Time” and “She Bop,” one had to wonder why anyone whose own music makes fans so happy would even want to sing the blues.
For “Girls,” Lauper brought Jones and her background singers back on stage to help, not that she needed it. It was the night’s best moment, at least in the stands. Yes, fans just wanna have fun, too.