Have you ever been to a concert that just picked you up from minute one and didn’t let you go for two hours? A concert that had a palpable energy running through the crowd from start to finish? A show that made you say WHAT was THAT?
We had the privilege of seeing a show like that on Saturday. The artist’s name was Raphael Saadiq. For those of you who have not heard of him, he has been in the business for over 27 years. He has had stints playing bass for Sheila E while on tour with Prince, as front man for the platinum selling Tony! Toni! Tone! and the R&B super-group Lucy Pearl, and has been an acclaimed producer of major artists like Mary J. Blige. But it has only been since 2008 that he has reinvented himself as a cross between Jackie Wilson, James Brown, Stevie Wonder and The Temptations, with hints of The Beatles. His Grammy nominated 2008 album, The Way I See It is filled with perfect recreations of Motown, Stax, and 70’s soul. his brand new album Stone Rollin’ is even better, with harder hitting and more musical songs. Which is where our concert review begins.
We saw Raphael at a smaller club in the Minneapolis area. Believe us when we tell you that it will be the last time he plays a small club in Minneapolis, if the audience reaction, the ticket demand, and the recent success of his album is any guide. But the one thing that will truly generate mad ticket sales in the future will be word of mouth. People will talk about what an experience it is to see the man play live.
The concert started with an exceptional live jam which demonstrated the talent of his backing band (more on that later). Raphael came on midway through, strapped on his white Telecaster, and ripped through 8 or 10 high energy songs before even taking a break between songs.His style, as we said earlier, is reminiscent of entertainers from the past. He owned the stage, strutting, posing, and generally commanding attention by force of personality. His vocal style sounds like Eddie Kendricks, Smokey Robinson, or a young Stevie Wonder, depending on the song. Since his music is so uptempo the crowd could not help but dance along.
The crowd itself was noteworthy inasmuch as it was the most diverse crowd either of us had ever seen. Young and old, black and white, they were all there enjoying the show. His current hit, “Radio,” with its early Beatles sound had the entire crowd dancing various 1960’s moves, and “Stone Rollin’, his ode to the, um, fuller figured woman, brought down the house.
His backing band was a show in and of itself. His lead guitarist shredded on some solos like Eddie Van Halen and Jimi Hendrix. While his two backing vocalists (one male, one female) acted out his lyrics and danced along with just as much energy as the star himself. His female vocalist, in particular, was astounding. Her voice was captivating and she sang her heart out from beginning to end. It is not often that a backing singer can command that kind of attention, but she did. The show kept moving at the same breakneck pace for two solid hours. After it was over we could only think to ourselves that this must have been what it was like to see James Brown in his day. From what we witnessed the orher night Raphael Saadiq has every right to be called the NEW Hardest Working Man In Show Business. If he ever comes to your town you owe it to yourself to see him play.