Sharon Jones at the Mondavi Center on October 30 // Paul Piazza
As her band the Dap-Kings launched into “New Shoes,” Sharon Jones strutted onto the Mondavi Center stage sporting eye-catching, shiny silver heels. When the song ended, she promptly took them off.
The 59-year-old’s story was already plenty remarkable: a former prison guard discovered in her 40s—nearly two decades later, a Grammy-winning vocalist at the forefront of the ‘60s soul revivalist movement. Now, she’s touring in support of her brand new holiday album, It’s a Holiday Soul Party, despite her recent diagnosis of stage two pancreatic cancer.
As Jones switched to more reasonable flats, she reminded the Friday night audience of that diagnosis—just in case they weren’t already aware—and how her feet are more tender, and how her skin has darkened in some places, and how there might be some notes she can’t quite hit like she used to. A collective, audible sound of pity could not be helped, to which Jones shook her head.
“I’ve got to live it,” she said. “But only for four more months. That’s what I say.”
What unfolded was a sassy, passionate and triumphant performance. The inspiring Jones sounded in perfect, powerful form and demonstrated several old-school, full-throttle dance moves. She teased the polite crowd for generally staying in those comfortable Mondavi seats and brought a few folks onstage for a joyous soul party.
She brought up her cancer over and over—this show was her declaration to the universe that Miss Sharon Jones would transcend expectations and never sit silent.
She recalled the release of “Get Up and Get Out,” off the Grammy-winning 2014 album Give the People What they Want, and how that coincided with her diagnosis. Though the song was initially supposed to be directed at a romantic interest, she found new meaning in its lyrics.
“I said, ‘Cancer, you get up and you get out,’” she said, looking positively fiery. “I’m not gonna let it get me down. I gotta fight it.”