Review: Raphael Saadiq

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By Joel Francis

The Kansas City Star

Raphael Saadiq brought nearly 90 minutes of eight-track soul jams into an iPod world Wednesday night at the VooDoo Lounge.

Taking the stage in a suit and glasses that echoed Temptation David Ruffin, Saadiq strapped on a white Telecaster as his six-piece band vamped over a groove that sounded like a lost Motown backing track.Setting the guitar aside, he plowed through several numbers from his latest album, the Motown and Philly soul-inspired “The Way I See It,” but it took a couple songs for the performance to connect with the audience. Part of that could have been the size of the crowd. The floor started about a quarter full, though it swelled considerably as the night wore on.

A better reason, though, was the 15-foot buffer the polite crowd kept from the stage. Sensing they need to turn things up a notch, the band kicked “100 Yard Dash” into high gear as Saadiq implored the crowd to move closer. Once they did, Saadiq kept them in the palm of his hand for the rest of the night.

The band brought out the slow jams for a quick one-two of Saadiq’s better-known cuts from his Lucy Pearl project and got everyone involved with a medley of Tony! Toni! Tone! favorites.

Sporting a broad grin, Saadiq clearly enjoyed watching the audience take over his old material. He nailed a falsetto toward the end of “Anniversary” that put nearly every woman in the audience over the edge. When he forgot the words to “All I Ask Of You” a moment later, no one seemed to mind when he took several bars to collect himself before starting again.

Album opener “Sure Hope You Mean” it was stretched out to include snippets of “Going To Kansas City” and the evening’s most intimate moment. As the band broke down the chorus, Saadiq held the mic by his side and sang to himself. Dancing around the stage he seemed lost in a private moment, oblivious to the audience.

The crowd tipped toward the thirty-year mark. For most of them, this was as close to a Motown revue as they were likely to see. Many of the folks in the balcony and sprinkled throughout the floor, however, were seeing the soul music of their childhood echoed for the second or third time.

Saadiq didn’t make it easy for the scores of fans holding cell phones and cameras to take his picture. He was constantly moving, strutting, spinning or dancing in synchronicity with his two backing vocalists. The only time he stood still was for a drawn-out gospel intro to “Let’s Talk A Walk” that teased the crowd several times.

Nearly an hour after he took the stage, Saadiq said goodnight and departed. He and the band quickly returned to perform “Still Ray” and “Big Easy,” a number inspired by Hurricane Katrina. His white Telecaster back on for the final number, Saadiq may have said goodnight once again, but his hands kept playing. He and the band jammed for a good five minutes before everyone left the stage.

The show seemed longer than its 75 minutes, but even its length was an old-school throwback. It was the same duration as those classic double-live concert LPs.

Setlist: Keep Marching, Love That Girl, 100 Yard Dash, Dance Tonight, La La, Just One Kiss, Oh Girl, Tony! Toni! Tone! Medley: Lay Your Head On My Pillow; Anniversary; All I Ask Of You; Just Me and You, Be Here, Let’s Take A Walk, Sure Hope You Mean It, Staying In Love. Encore: Still Ray,Big Easy.

One thought on “Review: Raphael Saadiq

  1. One more detail I didn’t include in the review (it was already running long): Saadiq completely reworked “Be Here.” On “Instant Vintage” it’s a mellow number that features D’Angelo. Last night it was an angry hard rock number that sounded like a sonic cousin to En Vogue’s “Free Your Mind” (in a good way).
    It was the only moment the evening’s classic soul spell was broken.

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