Giant Step’s Resident: The City, The Sounds, The Soul Part 3

Photo © Phillip Angert

By Mawuse Ziegb

If you could sum up Sharon Jones in word it might be “sequins.” Big shimmery sequins like the ones that dangled from her chocolate brown dress when she took the stage at The Beacon last Friday night. She and The Dap Kings took over the theater and sweated out everyone’s hairstyle. The crowd had the energy and sizzle of a rice cake but Sharon still managed to coax some of her fans to mosey on stage and wiggle to songs like “Gotta Be Genuine” and “Be Easy.” But Sharon really got down on tracks like “Once I Had A Good Man” and the greasy funk re-working of Janet Jackson’s “What Have You Done For Me Lately.” It went on like that for about an hour when Sharon left the stage and kept the house lights hovering for the all-important encore. When her band retreated to the stage we begged for her return like funked-up animals. She returned after a slick costume change to a tarty tight, black floral number and tickled the ivories herself for “Answer Me.” Then she really brought the house down with a heart-twisting rendition of James Brown’s “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World” and then broke down her ancestral history by dancing and storytelling to more James Brown riffs. Another word to sum up Sharon and The Dap Kings might be “whoa.”

In other “whoa” news, the best-selling album of all-time, Thriller was re-released last week which has sold over 100 million records and counting (Who sells a 100 million of anything these days?). Michael Jackson’s banger-heavy beast took home 8 well-deserved Grammys and songs like “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” and “PYT” still lord over dance floors 25 years after its original release. Trying to improve on “Thriller” is like trying improve on air. You can’t really replace it with anything else. But Will.I.Am does a hat-tipping job with his updates of “The Girl Is Mine 2008″ and “PYT 2008.” I definitely appreciate the synth-mad syncopation of Will’s take on “The Girl Is Mine” and the restructuring of “PYT,” stacked with tinkling congas and New Jack Swing-era horns. Although I could do without Will’s verse on the latter, he does a fine job of preserving the spirit of the well-worn classics. Some people who need to keep their hands off Michael’s work however, are Akon and Fergie. Akon’s nasally update of “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” is just bland and Fergie horning in on “Beat It” with her shrill vocals is just wrong. Some things should not be touched.

Last week was also the kick off Giant Step’s 2008 Hudson Hotel series featuring Rich Medina and honestly, I was a bit reluctant to go to. I’ve been seeing him DJ for a while dating back to my college years in Philly (Go Quakers!). I’ve seen him rip up venues long since faded into nightlife past, (R.I.P. SoMa, Tragos) and tear down spots that are headed for legendary status (long live APT and Fluid). I’ve seen him share the bill with everyone from King Britt to Chin Chin. I’ve been there for endless Afrobeats and countless soulclaps. I really thought I ‘d seen it all from this guy. But bless him, Monday night’s throwdown at the ever-luxe Hudson was really beautiful. The dancefloor was alight with savage disco energy from jump. People were actually jumping. Rich went hard with magnetic tracks like k-Os’ rambunctious “Superstarr Pt Zero,” Donald Byrd’s fluid “Think Twice” and Shaun Escoffery’s thumpy “Days Like This.” And popular kids like Taylor McFerrin, Bobbito and Mario Van Peebles stopped by for the fun. The night wrapped up beautifully as Rich faded out with the dreamy Earth, Wind and Fire gem, “Fantasy.” Some things are just classic.