June 4, 2011
On an absolutely gorgeous Saturday night in Minneapolis, I'm sure there were quite a few concertgoers disappointed that Raphael Saadiq's show at the Cabooze was moved inside rather than being held in the outdoor plaza as it was originally scheduled. But Saadiq and his stellar six-piece backing band immediately laid those concerns to rest during their soulful, uplifting two-hour set, one that kept everyone in the sweltering club dancing, clapping, and smiling from ear to ear. [jump]
The band took to the stage piece by piece, gradually laying down a smooth instrumental groove that they kept up for five minutes or so, until Saadiq eventually came out to join in the flow seamlessly on his guitar. It got both the band and the crowd sufficiently warmed up, so that when the first notes of "Falling In Love" finally kicked in, the party was well and truly under way. And, other than a few downtempo moments that allowed both the band and the crowd to catch their collective breath, that strong momentum never really let up, with Saadiq earnestly sharing the love and the passion found within his music with his enthusiastic fans.
After the velvety, Philly-soul of "Falling In Love," Saadiq brought the boisterous, rock-tinged flavor of "Heart Attack" and "Radio," that was reminiscent of some funky Stax Records classics. And while Saadiq's sound and style are decidedly retro, there is a fresh, modern pulse to his music that is refreshing and quite rousing. From the moment they stepped on stage, Saadiq and his cracking band (featuring guitarist Levi Seacer Jr., who has played with Prince in the past) had the crowd completely under their charms, delivering a spirited message of love that was warmly received by the enlivened audience. And the hits just kept on coming during the breathless start of the set, as fervent renditions of "Love That Girl," "100 Yard Dash," and "Sure Hope You Mean It" had everyone swaying in time with the sultry beats.
Saadiq also occasionally dug deep into his two-plus decades of hits during the set, delivering a lively rendition of the Lucy Pearl classic "Dance Tonight," that the crowd really responded to. They also were thrilled to hear the heartfelt "Anniversary," the only Tony! Toni! Tone! track the band dusted off during the show, but that number came during one of the slower paced portions of the set, and dragged just a bit (and seemed like a bit of a chore for Saadiq to sing). But absolutely on-fire versions of "Be Here," and the bluesy romp "Stone Rollin,'" the title track to Saadiq's excellent new record, kept the set animated, as did a vibrant rendition of "Let's Take A Walk" that everyone in the club obviously enjoyed.
It was during the prolonged set-closer "Skyy, Can You Feel Me," when Saadiq got especially real with the crowd (and dropped a few big names on us as well). He explained candidly: "People ask me all the time, 'Why do you love such old music? All you play is old music. You're so retro, you're such a throwback. You're so old school.' Well, I'll never forget something the late, great Isaac Hayes said to me. He said, 'There's no such thing as old school. Either you went to school or you didn't.'" I found that to be quite a profound statement in regards both to everyday life, and more specifically to music. For every musician is ultimately just adding a new twist to something they have heard before, and it only seems fake if the artist doesn't truly know or is oblivious to who and what came before them. Saadiq knows his inspirations well, and obviously holds them dear to his heart, taking those songs he loved from his younger days and breathing a fresh new life into them.
That concept was made abundantly clear as Saadiq riffed a bit on his love for Stevie Wonder: "One night Stevie and I were drunk talking. That's right, Stevie Wonder does get drunk. Real drunk. He's a red wine drinker. And I was thinking back to when I was a kid, and I was listening to Stevie's music, and I couldn't remember all of his lyrics, none of my friends could remember them all, but his melodies have stayed with me my whole life." And with that, the band went into a decidedly Stevie Wonder-influenced call-and-response groove with the crowd that gloriously drew the main set to a close.
After an extended encore break (that allowed Raphael to change his clothes), the band hit hard on a boisterous version of "Over You" that got everyone going one last time. That supercharged song segued quite nicely into the sermonizing spiritual "Go To Hell" which closed out the night on a total high. Saadiq soulfully sang to the crowd as the song wound down: "I'm so tired tonight, Minneapolis, but you're making me feel so good. I've been singing for 23 long years but you're making me want to just keep singing." And with that, the band revived the opening track of the night, "Falling In Love," as an outro, sending some love once more back out into the room, which the crowd gave back to the band tenfold throughout their impassioned, inspiring performance.
Critic's Bias: I love Stone Rollin,' but had regrettably never seen Raphael Saadiq perform live before. I won't miss one of his shows again.
The Crowd: A diverse mix of dapper old scenesters that have been to their share of shows over the years, and a younger, drunker portion of the crowd that was there to drink and dance.
Overheard In The Crowd: "There sure are a lot of fedoras here tonight."
Random Notebook Dump: For the second straight show, I saw a frontman dressed in white while his band was dressed all in black. Granted, Raphael Saadiq was dressed far more smartly than James Allan of Glasvegas, but still, the coincidence was a bit amusing.
For more photos: See our full slideshow by Stacy Schwartz.
Falling In Love
Love That Girl
100 Yard Dash
Sure Hope You Mean It
Never Give You Up
Movin' Down The Line
Dance Tonight (Lucy Pearl)
Anniversary (Tony! Toni! Tone!)
Ask Of You
Let's Take A Walk
Skyy, Can You Feel Me
Over You (Encore)
Go To Hell/Falling In Love (Encore)