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Lauper, Jones rock Atlanta with blues, soul

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.

10 comments Add your comment

Cynthia

August 7th, 2010
10:00 am

Good recap of the show. I recently discovered Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings Band. Her energy is felt in her music and the comparison to James Brown is right on. Cyndi Lauper will always be a favorite. I bet this show was nothing short of fun!

Grammar Patrol

August 7th, 2010
10:46 am

Man, I remember when grammar used to matter in the English language. I cannot count the number of sentence fragments in Tracy’s amateur contribution.

Sarah

August 7th, 2010
11:38 am

Grammar Patrol – Get over yourself.

Tracy – You are right in that Sharon Jones is much bigger than an opening act. You should have caught her earlier in the year at Center Stage. She played Variety Playhouse a couple of years ago too. All their albums are amazing!

MT

August 7th, 2010
12:16 pm

Grammar Patrol – Ms. Brown’s article was very positive and informati\ve to the reader. I am sure you would have said things a different way, but let’s thank Tracy for such a positive article.

I do understand your concern or antipathy for the butchering of the English language, but this article is not one to attack.

Dr Jay

August 7th, 2010
12:37 pm

Lauper jumped all over a fan in the front row for making some kind of “Frankenstein face” (huh?) in the first 60 seconds on stage. That set the tone for the rest of the show. She fancies herself a blues singer. She ain’t. This isn’t her style and she has neither the vocal timbre nor the credible soulful stage presence of a blues singer to pull it off. A white singer doing not-so-good covers of Hambone Willy Newbern and BB King in front of an overwhelmingly white suburban audience who just heard a warm-up act with a black singer doing electrifying covers of similar material was cringe-worthy.

It wasn’t until she got to her old stuff, the stuff that the crowd came to hear her sing, that she was on her home turf and musically comfortable.

Multiples times during the performance she and the band were out of sync and/or at odds. There were several missed cues. Right in the middle of one number, Ms. Lauper futzed with a guitar at the back of the stage. And it wasn’t even her guitar. A couple of times she interrupted her vocals to talk to one of the musicians. She was distracted and preoccupied. She was irritable with the audience. She kept kvetching about the heat and when an audience member with a fan directed it to her she snapped at him to stop doing it. The band and Ms. Lauper had clearly not rehearsed nearly enough to get the technical kinks out the show. Or perhaps Ms. Lauper was just having a bad night.. No way to tell.

She trotted out Sharon Jones for a couple of numbers, presumably to perform with her. Inexplicably Jones needed printed lyrics to join in on one song and Jones literally didn’t open her mouth but simply swayed to the music on another. What was THAT all about?

Several plugs for her latest album, a collection of blues covers, pretty much each time she performed one last night. No thanks. No really. No thanks. Again, no thanks. Please stop.

The first act, The Dap Kings with Sharon Jones, on the other hand, were great. A polished performance, beautiful arrangements and Ms. Jones wonderful voice and strong stage presence saved the night. It was everything that the Lauper half wasn’t.

eric

August 7th, 2010
1:41 pm

I agree Memphis Blues was not what some folks were expecting – but they could have looked up her recent album and look at her recent set list to see her new stuff was Blues that the encore was where she played her old stuff. I think the issue with the blowing fan was the guy in the front row grabbed a electric fan off the stage (Dude it’s not yours to grab, why don’t you just grab a speaker while you’re at it) and then pointed at her face. That could have easily annoyed anyone. However, at the end of the show, a person handed her one of those small hand held battery powered fans; she aimed it towards her face to cool off and then smiled and thanked them. During the encore, she walked the stage and graciously touched hands with all her fans but then again we weren’t blowing air at 30mph in her face or taking stuff that wasn’t ours. I admit not the (or her best show), but Cyndi could sing the phone book and a real fan would love it. Unfortunately, the season ticket holders at Chastain can hardly be classified as real fans

Rich

August 7th, 2010
3:48 pm

The crowd was full of so many gorgeous, handsome, muscular Gay men. What a show!!! :)

Cornholio

August 7th, 2010
4:02 pm

The show was simply FAB-ulous !

Hopefully, George Michael and Frankie Goes to Hollywood will be at Chastain next season.

The Country of Nicaragua (no relation)

August 10th, 2010
12:35 am

Saw Jones at Waterfront Blues Fest in Portland last year. Totally diva’d out and uniformly unimpressive. Maybe Tracy Brown needs to spend more time with some old Ruth Brown videos.

As for Lauper singing — or sounding like — anything remotely approaching The Blues, she’s got all the credibility of Pat Boone covering Fats Domino.

rod

August 10th, 2010
4:09 pm

Lauper is a two hit wonder. She has sucked since the 80’s and I dont know anyone who thinks she is worth a crap. She should just go to the retirement farm.