Bands that knowingly nod to the past can often come across as precious, acting as much like librarians as musicians — a trait that never creeps into the mix for long-running Brooklyn soul-funk revivalists Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. At this homecoming stint cum record release celebration, the combo took to the Apollo stage without the sense of awe that often accompanies such an appearance; instead, they played and acted as if they belonged there.
The members of the Dap-Kings speak the language of ’60s and ’70s soul learnedly, not phonetically, an ideal backdrop for Jones, a powerhouse of a singer who spent years as a Gotham corrections officer. She earned respect among hardcore soul and funk aficionados long before a recent mainstream reveal that resulted in her Daptone disc “I Learned the Hard Way” debuting at No. 15 on the album chart last month — no mean feat for a true indie that operates sans corporate distribution.
Much of the lengthy set was culled from that new disc. Jones plucked all the right wronged-woman heartstrings on tunes such as “How Long Do I Have to Wait for You,” a deceptively smooth wail reminiscent of the Isley Bros.’ “I Got Work to Do,” and the new disc’s spare, sing-along-ready title track.
Appropriately, given her chosen touchstones, Jones also dipped into the font of social consciousness at regular intervals, offering reflections on economic woes — old sentiments brought up to date by references to bank bailouts and Wall Street ravenousness — and turning in a rich, brassy take on “This Land Is Your Land” (originally released on the 2005 outing “Naturally”).
Perf hit all the tried and true soul revue notes — a cameo by a string session here, a nod to the sassy backing singers there — but the unifying ingredient, the passion of the core Dap-Kings, was unmistakable. As with an expertly crafted gumbo, none of the individual elements pushed to the fore, but each one — guitar, brass, percussion and, of course, voice — lent an irreplaceable tone.
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings will play at L.A.’s Wiltern Theater on June 26.