Two performers with distinctly different musical styles and personalities demonstrated two wildly different paths toward getting a Hollywood Bowl audience to eat out of their hands. Sharon Jones, the Brooklyn-based soul singer, led her band the Dap-Kings on a steady incline, seemingly pulling in the crowd row by row until she was being cheered emphatically for her take on a James Brown tune. Feist, the Canadian indie pop singer, displayed the variety of her tunes for 20 minutes and hit upon a solo clunker that featured her looping her vocals and a guitar part; within a half-hour, her set had moved from derailed to absolute triumph.
Leslie Feist, who had built a nice indie pop career with Broken Social Scene and two solo albums before an iTunes commercial pushed her into the mainstream, is at the point where she has old fans to keep happy and new ones to expose to material that does not rub shoulders with the megahit “1,2,3,4.” For the past year, she has stuck with the same 15-18 songs per night, rearranging the order but generally leaving the hit for the end. At the Bowl, it was smack dab in the middle of her refreshing second half.
The Bowl is considerably larger than the theaters she usually plays, and she opened with an a cappella tune sung behind a freestanding curtain, the audience seeing only her shadow in profile. She dove into the beefier guitar-oriented music in her songbook — a xylophone pierced the din with an air of playfulness — using the bouncy “My Moon My Man” to remind everyone that she can write a fine modern pop tune.
After her experiment with the electronics, though, Feist and her band became more focused, more buoyant and more intense. The material ranged from a folk-pop-drenched version of “Honey Honey” to a swirling and heavy reading of “Sea Lion,” her overlooked guitar skills coming to the fore and almost matching her keen ability to emote. Regardless of where she fits on the fame scale, the entire set felt organic and pure.
Jones and the Dap-Kings, by contrast, are purely showbiz: She is a fireball of an entertainer who wants everyone to jump into the groove with her and give her props for taking them along for the ride. The Dap-Kings, like all bands on the indie Dap-Tone Records label, seem sprung from a time machine that was being stocked between 1968 and 1971. They congregate at the church of James Brown, “Make It Funky” and “There Was a Time” providing the scripture for their sound; “Tell Me,” their one tune with a debt to the Motown sound, provided a perfect variation from the steady groove to help pull in the audience that much more. Their funk version of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” also is a creative crowd-pleaser.
Band, which backed Amy Winehouse on her US. tours, locks in and never lets up. Their 55-minute set closed on a high note as Jones did a string of James Brown dances — the mashed potato, the camel walk, the boogaloo — prior to delivering a knockout version of “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World.”
Pacifika, a Canadian band led by a Peruvian thrush that incorporates downtempo grooves, a bit of jazz and some Latin touches, is gaining some airplay with its bilingual track “Sweet.” Anchored by bass and drums, Silvana Kane provides an effervescent voice as a focal point while the melodies drift around her.